Ilse Fromm-Michaels

Ilse Fromm-Michaels. One of thousands of women composers of clarinet music.
Public Domain. Image by Anita Ree.

Ilse Fromm-Michaels was raised in Hamburg, Germany. In the 1930s, after the passing of the Nuremberg Race Laws, she was prohibited from performing her works. She is remembered in the clarinet community for her solo for unaccompanied clarinet, a 12-minute, single-movement clarinet and string quintet, and a woodwind quintet.

Ilse Fromm-Michaels (1888 – 1986)

Ilse Fromm-Michaels was a German pianist and composer. She was born in Hamburg and showed musical talent at an early age. She studied music in Berlin, first at the Hochschule fur Musik with Heinrich van Eyken for composition and with Marie Bender for piano. In 1905 she began study at the Sternsche Conservatory of Hans Pfitzner and James Kwast and completed her studies in 1913 with conductor and composer Fritz Steinbach and pianist Carl Friedberg in Cologne.1

In 1908 Fromm-Michaels began a career as a concert pianist, often playing her own works. She married Hamburg judge Dr. Walter Michaels, and after the Nuremberg Race Laws were instituted by the Nazis was banned from performing or publishing her compositions. She continued teaching music, and after World War II established the Hamburg First School of Music and Drama. In 1964 she was awarded the City of Hamburg’s Johannes Brahms Medal. In 1973 she moved to Detmold to be near her son, and died there in 1986.2

For clarinet Ilse composed a 3-movement unaccompanied work, Stimmungen eines Fauns, a woodwind quintet titled, Vier Püppen, (Four Puppets), and a breathtaking, single-movement clarinet-string quintet, Musica larga.

There are two known recordings of the Clarinet quintet. Both recordings feature Jost Michaels, the composers son. On a recording uploaded to the Internet Archive, Michaels can be heard performing Musica larga with the members of the Endres Quartet. A second recording, featuring Jost Michaels and the Melos Quartet, can be found on LP only.

Several sources indicate that Fromm-Michaels composed her clarinet quintet in 1944, around the time of the end of the war, as well as the death of her husband. Sources indicate that her husband may have died in 1945 or 1946.3,4

After the war, the Orchestra of the German radio broadcaster Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR), founded in 1945, premiered her first Symphony in 1946.


Stimmungen eines Fauns, op. 11 | 1931
Unaccompanied clarinet
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Musica larga | 1944
Clarinet Quintet (clarinet and string quartet)
Clarinetist: Jost Michaels
Purchase Score
Purchase Parts

Skip to second track. Music will begin after spoken credits (in German). Playlist will not display properly in WordPress. Sorry.

  1. Symphony 7, Hermann Ambrosius
  2. Musica larga, Fromm-Michaels (12:08)
  3. String Quartet, Philip Jamach

Vier Püppen | 1908*
Woodwind quintet
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  1. Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  2.  Michaels, Jost. “Ilse Fromm-Michaels” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2010.

* Originally for piano,

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