Symphonies by Women

How many women have achieved the compositional milestone of writing a symphony for full orchestra?  The answer is, quite a few!  What follows is what I believe to be a comprehensive list of all symphonies written by women.  If you know of others—or if you find anything here that needs correcting—please post a comment.  So many of these works have been unjustly neglected.  The day will come (hopefully soon) when any short list of the greatest composers will include women.

Looking towards the future, one composer to watch will certainly be Alma Deutscher.  Her first of many symphonies is eagerly anticipated!

Els Aarne (1917-1995)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Elfrida Andrée (1841-1929)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Violet Archer (1913-2000)
Symphony No. 1

Francine Aubin (1938-2016)
Symphony No. 1, “Allégorique”
Symphony No. 2, “de l’Espoir”
Symphony No. 3, “Kiev”

Lera Auerbach (1973-)
Symphony No. 1, “Chimera”
Symphony No. 2, “Requiem for a Poet”
Symphony No. 3, “The Infant Minstrel and His Peculiar Menagerie”
Symphony No. 4, “Arctica”

Elizabeth Austin (1938-)
Symphony No. 1, “Wilderness Symphony”
Symphony No. 2, “Lighthouse”

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4

Judith Bailey (1941-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Elsa Barraine (1910-1999)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Gaelic Symphony

Sally Beamish (1956-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)
Symphony in F Major

Johanna Bordewijk-Roepman (1892-1971)
Symphony

Ina Boyle (1889-1967)
Symphony No. 1, “Glencree”
Symphony No. 2, “The Dream of the Rood”
Symphony No. 3, “From the Darkness”

Elisabetta Brusa (1954-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Gloria Coates (1938-)
Symphony No. 1, “Music on Open Strings”
Symphony No. 2, “Music on Abstract Lines/ Illuminatio in Tenebris”
Symphony No. 3, “Symphony for Strings/Symphony Nocturne”
Symphony No. 3 (Version 2), “Holographic Universe”, with violin solo
Symphony No. 4, “Chiaroscuro”
Symphony No. 5, “Drei mystische Gesänge”
Symphony No. 6, “Music in Microtones”
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8, “Indian Sounds”
Symphony No. 9, “Homage to Van Gogh”
Symphony No. 10, “Drones of Druids on Celtic Ruins”
Symphony No. 11
Symphony No. 12
Symphony No. 13
Symphony No. 14, “The Americans”
Symphony No. 15, “Homage to Mozart”
Symphony No. 16, “Time Frozen”
Symphony No. 17, “Fonte di Rimini”

Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Choral Symphony, This Land
Symphony No. 3, “Lyric”
Symphony No. 4, “Autumn”

Nancy Dalberg (1881-1949)
Symphony in C minor

Yvonne Desportes (1907-1993)
Symphony No. 1, “Saint-Gindolph”
Symphony No. 2, “Monorythmie”
Symphony No. 3, “L’Éternel féminin”

Mary Dickenson-Auner (1880-1965)
Symphony No. 1, “Irish Symphony”, op. 16
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6

Johanna Doderer (1969-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2,”Bohinj”

Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1899-1974)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Manitoba”

Pozzi Escot (1933-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Tsippi Fleischer (1946-)
Symphony No. 1, “Salt Crystals”
Symphony No. 2, “The Train”
Symphony No. 3, “Regarding Beauty”
Symphony No. 4, “A Passing Shadow”
Symphony No. 5, “Israeli-Jewish Collage”
Symphony No. 6, “The Eyes, Mirror of the Soul”
Symphony No. 7, “Choral Symphony”

Ilse Fromm-Michaels (1888-1986)
Symphony in C minor

Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5

Julia Gomelskaya (1964-2016)
Symphony No. 1, “SymPhobia”
Symphony No. 2, “Ukraine Forever”
Symphony No. 3, “Magnet”
Symphony No. 4, “Ra-Aeternae”

Clémence de Grandval (1828-1907)
Symphony [performed in 1851 by Berlioz’s Société Philharmonique, is lost]

Annie Grimson (1870-1949)
Symphony

Sofia Gubaidulina (1931-)
Stimmen… Verstummen…, a symphony in twelve movements

Barbara Harbach (1946-)
Symphony No. 1, “Veneration for Orchestra”
Symphony No. 2, “One of Ours – A Cather Symphony”
Symphony No. 3, “A State Divided – a Missouri Symphony”
Symphony No. 4, “Jubilee Symphony”
Symphony No. 5, “Gateway Festival Symphony”
Symphony No. 6, “Night Sounds”
Symphony No. 7, “O Pioneers!”
Symphony No. 8, “The Scarlet Letter”
Symphony No. 9, “Celestial Symphony”
Symphony No. 10, “Symphony for Ferguson”

Augusta Holmès (1847-1903)
Symphony No. 1, “Orlando furioso”
Symphony No. 2, “Lutèce”
Symphony No. 3, “Les Argonautes”

Aline Hundt (1849-1872)
Symphony in G minor

Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940)
Symphony in B minor

Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Symphony, op. 3

Libby Larsen (1950-)
Symphony No. 1, “Water Music”
Symphony No. 2, “Coming Forth Into Day”
Symphony No. 3, “Lyric”
Symphony No. 4, “String Symphony”
Symphony No.5, “Solo Symphony”
Symphony No. 6, “Forward”

Helvi Leiviskä (1902-1982)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)
Symphony No. 1 [withdrawn]
Symphony No. 2 [withdrawn]
Symphony for Double String Orchestra
Little Symphony

Ester Mägi (1922-)
Symphony

Nina Makarova (1908-1976)
Symphony in D minor

Marianna Martines (1744-1812) [aka Marianne Martinez]
Symphony in C Major

Emilie Mayer (1812-1883)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3, “Military”
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8

Onutė Narbutaitė (1956-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Anne-Marie Ørbeck (1911-1996)
Symphony in D Major

Alla Pavlova (1952-)
Symphony No. 1 “Farewell, Russia” for chamber orchestra
Symphony No. 2 “For the New Millennium”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8
Symphony No. 9
Symphony No. 10, “Path to Golden Gate”

Dora Pejačević (1885-1923)
Symphony in F-sharp minor

Barbara Pentland (1912-2000)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3, “Symphony for Ten Parts”
Symphony No. 4

Julia Perry (1924-1979)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5, “Integration”
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7, “U.S.A.”
Symphony No. 8
Symphony No. 9
Symphony No. 10, “Soul”
Symphony No. 11
Symphony No. 12, “Simple Symphony”
Symphony No. 13

Victoria Polevá (1962-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Offertory to Anton Bruckner”
Symphony No. 3, “White interment”

Florence Price (1887-1953)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4

Shulamit Ran (1949-)
Symphony

Elizabeth Raum (1945-)
Symphony of Youth

Heather Schmidt (1974-)
Symphony No. 1, “Manufactured Landscapes”

Johanna Senfter (1879-1961)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8
Symphony No. 9

Verdina Shlonsky (1905-1990)
Symphony

Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884) [aka Alice Mary Meadows White]
Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Symphony No. 2 in A minor

Ethyl Smyth (1858-1944)
Symphony, “The Prison”

Helen Taylor (1915-1950)
Symphony

Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “True and Eternal Bliss!”
Symphony No. 3, “Jesus Messiah, Save Us!”
Symphony No. 4, “Prayer”
Symphony No. 5, “Amen”

Lucy Wilkins (1939-)
Symphony

Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Symphony No. 1, “Symphonic Impressions”
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 2

Judith Lang Zaimont (1945-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Remember Me”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4 “Pure, Cool (Water)”

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939-)
Symphony No. 1, “Three Movements for Orchestra”
Symphony No. 2 “Cello Symphony”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4, “The Gardens”
Symphony No. 5, “Concerto for Orchestra”

19 thoughts on “Symphonies by Women”

    1. Here are some more symphonies out of my collection:
      Els Aarne
      Symphony no 2 (1966)

      Francine Aubin
      Symphony no 2 Symphonie l’espoir

      Cecile Chaminade
      Les Amazones, symphonie dramatique

      Elizabeth Violet Maconchy-Lefanu
      Symphony for double string orchestra

      Helvi Leiviskä (1902-1982)
      Sinfonia Brevis (1962)

      Helen Taylor
      Symphony (1950)

      Grace Williams (1906-1977)
      Sinfonia concertante (1941)

      1. Thanks, Peter, I added most of the symphonies you suggested. Realizing there can be a fuzzy line between what is and is not a symphony, I decided not to add these works for the following reasons.

        Cécile Chaminade – Les Amazones, symphonie dramatique
        In her Master’s thesis, “Cécile Chaminade: A Composer at Work”, Karen Jee-Hae McCann states on p.70, “One of the first questions this work raises is that of its genre. All references made to Les Amazones label it a ‘dramatic symphony’; even Chaminade herself called this composition a dramatic symphony. In the published piano score of Les Amazones, however, the subtitle clearly indicates that it is a ‘poème dramatique,’ a form that implies a shorter work, like the romantic one-movement tone poem, not a ‘symphonie dramatique.’ Yet, of course, as Hugh Macdonald recognizes, this work is not a symphonic poem in that it is not exclusively orchestral, as it features a chorus and three soloists that provide an actual narrative. Les Amazones appears to be a hybrid genre between a dramatic symphonic work and opera, that Chaminade modified and adapted as she saw fit.”
        Reference: https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/831/items/1.0090908

        Helvi Leiviskä – Sinfonia Brevis (1962)
        Helvi Leiviskä wrote her Symphony No. 2 in 1954 and her Symphony No. 3 in 1971, so because Sinfonia Brevis was written in between these works it appears she did not consider it a symphony, per se.

        Grace Williams – Sinfonia concertante (1941)
        Since Grace Williams wrote this work prior to her Symphony No. 1 (1943) and Symphony No. 2 (1956; rev. 1975), it appears she did not consider it to be a symphony.

  1. I believe that you have missed out on including Marianne Martinez (18th century) and Louise Farrenc (19th century). Otherwise I cannot immediately fill in any gaps in your list, although I am sure there are many more symphonies out there. I haven’t heard that many of these, but now I know where to start looking. All the best.

    1. Thank you, David! I have added the symphonies of both Marianne Martinez and Louise Farrenc to the list. In the future, if you find any others, please let me know.

      I was pleased to find all three of the symphonies by Louise Farrenc have been recorded and are available through HBDirect. Playing through the provided short excerpts of each was enough to entice me to purchase the two CDs.

  2. I’ve just started hearing in the last month about Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940), the piano teacher of Igor Stravinsky. She has a Symphony in B minor that has two performances on YouTube, and is being championed by the biographer of Igor Stravinsky, who while doing the research for his biography on Stravinsky, discovered her music. Boosey and Hawkes will be publishing modern versions of her existing scores.

    1. Thanks, Lee! I just added Leokadiya Kashperova and her Symphony in B minor to the list. Listening to it on YouTube, I look forward to a recording being released on CD, hopefully soon. Good find! Thanks again.

  3. Thank you for listing the symphonies.
    Those with Numbers 2, 3,4,7,8,9, 10, 16, and 17 have all been recorded. They are on cpo, naxos and new world. Some are on you tube.
    Symphony No. 17 can be added as “Fonte di Rimini” on New World .

    1. You are very welcome, Gloria! I have added your Symphony No. 17 to the list and added additional links to symphonies that didn’t have them that I could find on CD (first choice) or You Tube (second choice). I shall be happy to add additional or improved links as I am made aware of them. Many thanks!

  4. Hi there, thanks so much for this list! A few Canadian composers that are missing (you can find their info on the Canadian Music Centre’s website musiccentre.ca):
    Barbara Pentland
    Heather Schmidt
    Violet Archer
    Elizabeth Raum

    Thanks again!

    1. Thank you, Amanda! I have added these four composers and the symphonies they have written. If you find any others, or have any updates, please let know as you come across them. I was not aware of the musiccentre.ca site. What a fantastic resource! Thanks much.

  5. Hello, Here are some of the recordings not listed for symphonies of Gloria Coates:
    Symphony No. 17. “Fonte di Rimini” is on 80599-2 of New World Records
    Symphony No. 9 “Homage to Van Gogh”. on CPO 999 590 – 2 (1998)
    Symphony No. 16 “Time Frozen” on CPO 999 590 – 2

    composer Gloria Coates. These are recordings of symphonies not shown.

  6. Hello again!

    Symphony no. 3 Version 2 with violin “Holographic Universe” by Gloria Coates
    has another version with Violin called “Holographic Universe”
    It is recorded on a TZADIK CD called ‘At Midnight’. a John Zorn label
    CD of Music by Gloria Coates

  7. Added symphonies by Els Aarne, Francine Aubin, Elizabeth Maconchy, and Helen Taylor (thanks, Peter!).

    Also added symphonies by Johanna Doderer and Onutė Narbutaitė.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *