Augusta (Mary Anne) Holmès was born in Paris in 1847. She is best remembered in the clarinet community for her Fantaisie, which was the first clarinet piece the Paris Conservatory had ever selected for competition composed by a woman.1,2,3
Augusta Holmès (1847 – 1903)
Holmès was born in Paris to Irishman Charles William Scott Dalkeith Holmes from Youghal, County Cork. Despite showing talent at the piano, she was not allowed to study at the Paris Conservatoire, but took lessons privately. She developed her piano playing under the tutelage of local pianist Mademoiselle Peyronnet, Versailles’ cathedral organist Henri Lambert, and Hyacinthe Klosé. Around 1876, she became a pupil of César Franck.
Camille Saint-Saëns wrote of Holmès in the journal Harmonie et Mélodie: “Like children, women have no idea of obstacles, and their willpower breaks all barriers. Mademoiselle Holmès is a woman, an extremist.” Like other female composers from the nineteenth century including Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, Holmès published some of her earlier works under a male pseudonym (“Hermann Zenta”) because women in European society at that time were not taken seriously as artists and were discouraged from publishing.
For the 1889 celebration of the centennial of the French Revolution, Holmès was commissioned to write the Ode triomphale for the Exposition Universelle, a work requiring about 1,200 musicians. She gained a reputation of being a composer of programme music with political meaning, such as her symphonic poems Irlande and Pologne.
Holmès bequeathed most of her musical manuscripts to the Paris Conservatoire.
Most notably for clarinetists, Holmès’ Faintaisie for clarinet and piano in 1900 was selected for the famed Paris Conservatory annual competition, making it the first solo de concours for clarinet composed by a woman.1,2,3
She also composed a second, shorter work for clarinet and piano, titled Molto Lento. At this time, the date of composition and publication are unknown.
Read her full biography on wikipedia.org
Fantaisie in c minor: Solo de concours | 1900
Clarinet and Piano
Score and part available on IMSLP
Molto Lento | c. 1847-1903*
Clarinet and Piano
Purchase score and part
Stay Informed! Sign up to receive word when we add new composers or works to our catalogue.
- Loungsangroong, Manchusa. First-Wave Women Clarinetists Retrospective: A Guide To Women Clarinetists Born Before 1930. 2017. The Ohio State University, DMA Document.
- Caringi, Joseph John. “THE CLARINET CONTEST SOLOS OF THE PARIS CONSERVATORY WITH A PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS OF SELECTED COMPOSITIONS.” Order No. 6401466, Columbia University, 1963. In PROQUESTMS ProQuest One Academic, https://proxy.lib.utc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.proxy.lib.utc.edu/dissertations-theses/clarinet-contest-solos-paris-conservatory-with/docview/302161776/se-2?accountid=14767.
*Actual date of composition or publication unknown at this time.