Ethel Smyth: The Prison

August 18, 2020, 9:00 am

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August 18th marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Constitutional Amendment, granting women in the United States the right to vote. A fitting time then for the release of the world-premiere recording of Ethel Smyth’s late masterpiece The Prison. Smyth left home at nineteen to study composition in Leipzig, where she met and won the admiration of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Dvořák, and Grieg. She later became central to the suffragette movement in England, writing The March of the Women. Composed in 1930, The Prison is a symphony in two parts set for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus, and full orchestra. The text is taken from a philosophical work by Henry Bennet Brewster and concerns the writings of a prisoner in solitary confinement, his reflections on life, and his preparations for death.