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Classical music has a history of Composing… Women! So this Women’s History Month Tri States Public Radio and the WIU School of Music shines the spotlight… one every weekday… on over twenty great female composers. From baroque to romantic… to impressionist… to post-serialist. From the mystic Abbess who advised the Pope… to the Chicagoan whose works were rediscovered in an abandoned house. Listen in for Composing Women… Every weekday during March at 7:19 during Morning Edition, or at 5:48 during All Things Considered, as TSPR Music Director Ken Zahnle introduces you to our composer of the day… and at 11:00 a.m. during Ovation for a featured work by our featured classical master.

Louise Farrenc

Louise Farrenc

Louise Farrenc came from a long family line of noted painters and sculptors, so maybe it should be no surprise she would be an artistic titan herself.

Born Louise Dumont in Paris in 1804 she studied piano with virtuosos Ignaz Moscheles and Johann Nepomuk Hummel, at 15 began composition lessons with Paris Conservatoire professor Antoine Reicha (privately, of course, since women were not allowed to attend at that time), and married a surprisingly supportive fellow musician, flutist Aristide Farrenc. They had a long collaborative relationship, including concert tours and founding one of France’s leading publishing houses.

At first she primarily published works for her own instrument, but expanded into orchestral and chamber music in the 1830s and ‘40s. And to good notice: composer and critic Robert Schumann praised her Air russe varié as, “so sure in outline, so logical in development … that one must fall under (it’s) charm.”

The Conservatoire, where she once could not attend classes, appointed Farrenc Professor of Piano in 1842, a position she held until she retired in 1873… the only woman to hold such a position in Europe during the 19th century. She wrote an influential text on early performance practice, and her students consistently won first prizes.

For all of that she still struggled to have her works performed, and to earn a fair wage, only achieving equal pay with her male colleagues after the hugely successful premiere of her Nonet.

Louise Farrenc… a Composing Woman.


  • May 31st 1804 - Born in Paris
  • 1819 - Began training in composition and orchestration with Reicha at the Paris Conservatoire
  • 1821 - Got married


Sextet in c minor for winds and piano, op. 40
Symphony no. 3 in g minor, op. 36
Nonet, op. 38
Cello sonata in B flat major, op. 46Nocturne in E flat major, op. 49
Air russe varié, op. 17

Ken oversees all music programming for Tri States Public Radio, hosting the morning classical music program Ovation, the Saturday nigh jazz survey After Hours, and engineering recorded performances for TSPR. Ken is a native of Highland Park, IL, with degrees in music and broadcasting from Western Illinois University. Teenage years listening to Chicago's old-school fine arts and classical radio stations, coupled with a few months spinning discs on a college residence hall radio station, led him onto the primrose career path of radio. Ken has deep roots at TSPR, starting as a student staff announcer and host, before becoming news director for a group of local radio stations, then Program Director for Tri States Audio Information Services. When he's not deep within our studios and music library, he continues his over quarter-century of assisting Macomb High School's Marching Band.