A forgotten composer’s symphony has been performed for the first time in more than 100 years thanks to an investigation by a City academic.

The BBC Concert Orchestra played Leokadiya Kashperova’s work at a special BBC Radio 3 concert, broadcast live on International Women’s Day 2018. The symphony is among a trove of compositions discovered by Dr Graham Griffiths, an Honorary Research Fellow
in City’s Department of Music.

Radio 3 chose Kashperova and four other women for an initiative, run in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which set out to revive the work of forgotten female composers.

"As soon as I began uncovering Kashperova’s lyrical and beautifully crafted music I realised that she had been unjustly overlooked. Truly, I feel that after a century of neglect, this long-forgotten and quite excellent composer thoroughly deserves rediscovery."

Dr Griffiths

Dr Graham Griffiths

Leokadiya Kashperova, born in 1872, was a Russian pianist and tutor who wrote Romantic songs and instrumental music. After marrying a revolutionary with links to Lenin, she was forced to leave her home city during the 1917 Russian Revolution and her music was never published or performed again. She died in 1940.

Dr Griffiths has been studying Kashperova since 2002, when her name came up during his research for the book, Stravinsky’s Piano: Genesis of a Musical Language. He found she was the piano teacher of the great Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, but little else was known about her life.

As part of his research, Dr Griffiths embarked on several trips to St Petersburg and Moscow, during which he uncovered the composer’s biography and her lost compositions, including a symphony, which was completed in 1905.

Leokadiya Kashperova

He said: “One of the great thrills of my most recent visit to Moscow was the discovery of many musical manuscripts. Not sketches, but complete works, ready for publication and performance. Kashperova herself never heard them except in her head.

“In 2014, I located her symphony, her greatest work. It’s utterly beautiful. It was a magical experience to hear it performed by such an excellent orchestra here in London.”

Kashperova’s ‘Symphony in B Minor’ closed the Radio 3 concert, held at LSO St Luke’s in Old Street, London.

Listen to the symphony here.