I am a cellist and cello teacher, and The Hensel Project is my way of trying to address the gender balance in my playing and teaching. Despite an undergraduate degree where I learnt about a number of inspiring women and a Master’s dissertation on Fanny Hensel, I have recently become aware of how little music by women I play and teach. Over the next year I am going to focus on learning and performing repertoire by women, building as much of this into my teaching as I can. I have named the project after Fanny Hensel as she is where many discussions of female composers begin, partly due to her famous brother, Felix Mendelssohn. Her story is often used as an illustration of the restrictions placed on women, and the barriers placed in the way of their musical careers. While that is certainly a large part of the picture, Hensel achieved a great deal as a composer, performer and influencer of musical taste. Through this blog, I want to celebrate what women composers have achieved rather than what they were prevented from doing.
I am keen to perform as much of the music I explore as possible, so I would welcome any suggestions of concert venues or indeed of composers to listen to and research.
Rachel Watson is a cellist and teacher based in Oxford. She is a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.