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In a speech to the Buffalo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in 1988 Edith Borroff told the following story of her audition at Oberlin Conservatory, where she had planned to major in composition: "l played Beethoven Opus l0l, Brahms Opus 118, and a group of Debussy, for a stern-looking panel of men. When I finished I was asked for a prelude and fugue. I knew they meant one by J.S. Bach, but they didn’t say it, so I played one of my own. When I was done they thanked and dismissed me. As I left I heard one of the men say to his colleague, ‘lnteresting. I don’t know that one.' ‘Don’t be silly,' replied the other. ‘lt’s from Book Two.'"
An amusing story, but rather more poignant in its ultimate conclusion: Bornoff was admitted to Oberlin as a piano major, but was refused permission to study composition. The reason was an abiding belief that women could not compose.
Musicology became Borroff’s mainstay. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, she taught at several universities, from 1974-92 at SUNY, Binghampton. Always a free thinker (her 1971 book, Music in Europe and the United States: A History, was termed "dangerous" by the musicology department head of a major Eastern university), Borroff is also a composer of great intellectual weight. Her Organ works range from heady studies in counterpoint to virtuosic technical display lighthearted 4-hands 4-feet arrangements.
Passacaglia dates from 1946. A neo-romantic piece in C# minor, it begins with a simple statement of the passacaglia theme, peaking in a hemiola. The 19 variations which follow wind through a canon, shifting meters, and enchanting modulations of harmony, texture, and color. It is published by American Composers Alliance, 170 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023, USA.