JULIETTE NADIA BOULANGER (French: ; 16 September 1887 – 22 October 1979) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. She is notable for having taught many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She also performed occasionally as a pianist and organist.
From a musical family, she achieved early honours as a student at the
Paris Conservatoire but, believing that she had no particular talent
as a composer, she gave up writing music and became a teacher. In that
capacity, she influenced generations of young composers, especially
those from the United States and other English-speaking countries.
Among her students were those who became leading composers, soloists,
arrangers and conductors, including
Aaron Copland ,
Roy Harris ,
Boulanger taught in the US and England, working with music academies
Boulanger was the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in
America and Europe, including the
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life and education
* 1.2 Professional life
* 1.3 Life after Lili\'s death, 1918-21
* 1.4 The American School at Fontainebleau, 1921-1935
* 1.5 Touring and recording
Second World War
* 2 The pedagogue * 3 Honours and awards * 4 Key works * 5 Recordings * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Ernest Boulanger had studied at the
Paris Conservatoire and, in 1835
at the age of 20, won the coveted
Prix de Rome
Raissa qualified as a home tutor (or governess ) in 1873. According to Ernest, he and Raissa met in Russia in 1873, and she followed him back to Paris. She joined his voice class at the Conservatoire in 1876, and they were married in Russia in 1877. Ernest and Raissa had a daughter who died as an infant before Nadia was born on her father's 72nd birthday.
Through her early years, although both parents were very active musically, Nadia would get upset by hearing music and hide until it stopped. In 1892, when Boulanger was five, Raissa became pregnant again. During the pregnancy, Boulanger's response to music changed drastically. "One day I heard a fire bell. Instead of crying out and hiding, I rushed to the piano and tried to reproduce the sounds. My parents were amazed." After this, Boulanger paid great attention to the singing lessons her father gave, and began to study the rudiments of music.
Her sister, named Marie-Juliette Olga but known as Lili , was born in 1893, when Nadia was six. When Ernest brought Nadia home from their friends' house, before she was allowed to see her mother or Lili, he made her promise solemnly to be responsible for the new baby's welfare. He urged her to take part in her sister's care.
From the age of seven,
In 1896, the nine year old Boulanger entered the Conservatoire. She
came third in the 1897 solfège competition, and subsequently worked
hard to win first prize in 1898. She took private lessons from Louis
Alexandre Guilmant . During this period, she also received
religious instruction to become an observant
In 1900 her father Ernest died, and money became a problem for the family. Raissa had an extravagant lifestyle, and the royalties she received from performances of Ernest's music were insufficient to live on permanently. Boulanger continued to work hard at the Conservatoire to become a teacher and be able to contribute to her family's support.
In 1903, Boulanger won the Conservatoire's first prize in harmony ; she continued to study for years, although she had begun to earn money through organ and piano performances. She studied composition with Gabriel Fauré and, in the 1904 competitions, she came first in three categories: organ, accompagnement au piano and fugue (composition). At her accompagnement exam, Boulanger met Raoul Pugno , a renowned French pianist, organist and composer, who subsequently took an interest in her career.
In the autumn of 1904, Boulanger began to teach from the family
apartment at 36, rue Ballu. In addition to the private lessons she
held there, Boulanger started holding a Wednesday afternoon group
class in analysis and sightsinging. She continued these almost to her
death. This class was followed by her famous "at homes", salons at
which students could mingle with professional musicians and
Boulanger's other friends from the arts, such as
Boulanger was a keen composer in the years after she left the
Conservatoire, encouraged by both Pugno and Fauré. Caroline Potter,
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , says of
Boulanger's music: "Her musical language is often highly chromatic
(though always tonally based), and
In late 1907 she was appointed to teach elementary piano and accompagnement au piano at the newly created Conservatoire Femina-Musica. She was also appointed as assistant to Henri Dallier , the professor of harmony at the Conservatoire.
In the 1908
Prix de Rome
In 1908, as well as performing piano duets in public concerts,
Boulanger and Pugno collaborated on composing a song cycle, Les Heures
claires, which was well-received enough to encourage them to continue
working together. Still hoping for the First Grand Prix de Rome,
Boulanger entered the 1909 competition but failed to win a place in
the final round. Later that year, her sister Lili, then sixteen,
announced to the family her intention to become a composer and win the
Prix de Rome
In 1910, Annette Dieudonné became a student of Boulanger's, continuing with her for the next fourteen years. When her studies ended, she began teaching Boulanger's students the rudiments of music and solfège. She was Boulanger's close friend and assistant for the rest of her life.
Boulanger attended the premiere of
Diaghilev 's ballet The Firebird
in Paris, with music by
In April 1912,
With the advent of war in Europe in 1914, public programs were reduced, and Boulanger had to put her performing and conducting on hold. She continued to teach privately and to assist Dallier at the Conservatoire. Nadia was drawn into Lili's expanding war work, and by the end of the year, the sisters had organised a sizable charity, the Comité Franco-Américain du Conservatoire National de Musique et de Déclamation. It supplied food, clothing, money, letters from home, etc. to soldiers who had been musicians before the war.
Weakened by her work on the war, Lili began to suffer ill health. She died in March 1918.
LIFE AFTER LILI\'S DEATH, 1918-21
In 1919, Boulanger performed in more than twenty concerts, often programming her own music and that of her sister. Since the Conservatoire Femina-Musica had closed during the war, Alfred Cortot and Auguste Mangeot opened a new music school in Paris, which opened later that year, the École normale de musique de Paris . Boulanger was invited by Cortot to join the school, where she ended up teaching classes in harmony , counterpoint , musical analysis , organ and composition.
Mangeot also asked Boulanger to contribute articles of music criticism to his paper Le Monde Musical , and she occasionally provided articles for this, and other newspapers, for the rest of her life, though she never felt at ease setting her opinions down for posterity in this way.
In 1920, Boulanger began to compose again, writing a series of songs
to words by
THE AMERICAN SCHOOL AT FONTAINEBLEAU, 1921-1935
Château de Fontainebleau
In the summer of 1921 the French Music School for Americans opened in Fontainebleau, with Boulanger listed on the programme as a professor of harmony. She inaugurated the custom, which would continue for the rest of her life, of inviting the best students to her summer residence at Gargenville one weekend for lunch and dinner. Among the students attending the first year at Fontainebleau was Aaron Copland .
Boulanger's unrelenting schedule of teaching, performing, composing, writing letters etc. started to take its toll on her health; she had frequent migraines and toothaches. She stopped writing as a critic for Le Monde musical as she could not attend the requisite concerts. To maintain the living standard for her and her mother, she concentrated on teaching. This was her most lucrative source of income. Fauré believed she was mistaken to stop composing, but she told him, "If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that I wrote useless music."
In 1924, Walter Damrosch , Arthur Judson and the New York Symphony Society arranged for Boulanger to tour the US towards the end of the year. She set sail on the Cunard flagship RMS Aquitania on Christmas Eve. The ship arrived on New Year's Eve in New York after an extremely rough crossing. During this tour, she performed solo organ works, pieces by Lili, and premiered Copland's new Symphony for Organ and Orchestra , which he had written for her. She returned to France on 28 February 1925.
Later that year, Boulanger approached the publishers Schirmer to enquire if they would be interested in publishing her methods of teaching music to children. When nothing came of this, she abandoned trying to write about her ideas.
Gershwin visited Boulanger in 1927, asking for lessons in composition. They spoke for half an hour after which Boulanger announced, "I can teach you nothing." Taking this as a compliment, Gershwin repeated the story many times.
Her mother Raissa died in March 1935, after a long decline. This freed Boulanger from some of her ties to Paris, which had prevented her from taking up teaching opportunities in the United States.
TOURING AND RECORDING
In 1936, Boulanger substituted for
Alfred Cortot in some of his piano
masterclasses, coaching the students in Mozart's keyboard works.
Later in the year, she traveled to London to broadcast her
lecture-recitals for the
Boulanger's long-held passion for Monteverdi culminated in her recording six discs of madrigals for HMV in 1937. This brought his music to a new, wider audience. Though received very well in most quarters, some reviewers took issue with her use of modern instruments.
Late in 1937, Boulanger returned to Britain to broadcast for the BBC and hold her popular lecture-recitals. In November, she became the first woman to conduct a complete concert of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, which included Fauré's Requiem and Monteverdi's Amor (Lamento della ninfa). Describing her concerts, Mangeot wrote,
She never uses a dynamic level louder than mezzo-forte and she takes pleasure in veiled, murmuring sonorities, from which she nevertheless obtains great power of expression. She arranges her dynamic levels so as never to have need of fortissimo ...
In 1938, Boulanger returned to the US for a longer tour. She had
arranged to give a series of lectures at Radcliffe ,
HMV issued two additional Boulanger records in 1938: the Piano Concerto in D by Jean Françaix, which she conducted; and the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, in which she and Dinu Lipatti were the duo pianists with a vocal ensemble, and (again with Lipatti) a selection of the Brahms Waltzes, Op. 39 for piano four hands .
During Boulanger's tour of America the following year, she became the
first woman to conduct the
New York Philharmonic
SECOND WORLD WAR AND EMIGRATION, 1940-45
Second World War
LATER LIFE IN PARIS, 1946-79
Leaving America at the end of 1945, she returned to France in January 1946. There she accepted a position of professor of accompagnement au piano at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1953, she was appointed overall director of the Fontainebleau School. She also continued her touring to other countries.
As a long-standing friend of the family (and officially as chapel-master to the Prince of Monaco ), Boulanger was asked to organise the music for the wedding of Prince Rainier of Monaco and the American actress, Grace Kelly , in 1956. In 1958, she returned to the US for a six-week tour. She combined broadcasting, lecturing, and making four television films.
Also in 1958, she was inducted as an Honorary Member into Sigma Alpha Iota , the international women's music fraternity, by the Gamma Delta chapter at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, New York.
In 1962, she toured Turkey, where she conducted concerts with her
Idil Biret . Later that year, she was invited to the
Her eyesight and hearing began to fade toward the end of her life. On August 13, 1977, in advance of her 90th birthday, she was given a surprise birthday celebration at Fontainebleau's English Garden. The school's chef had prepared a large cake, on which was inscribed: "1887–Happy Birthday to you, Nadia Boulanger–Fontainebleau, 1977". When the cake was served, 90 small white candles floating on the pond illuminated the area. Boulanger's then-protégé, Emile Naoumoff , performed a piece he had composed for the occasion. Boulanger worked almost until her death in 1979 in Paris. She is buried at the Montmartre Cemetery , as is her sister Lili.
36 rue Ballu, Paris For Boulanger's notable students, see List
of music students by teacher: A to B §
Asked about the difference between a well-made work and a masterpiece, Boulanger replied,
I can tell whether a piece is well-made or not, and I believe that there are conditions without which masterpieces cannot be achieved, but I also believe that what defines a masterpiece cannot be pinned down. I won't say that the criterion for a masterpiece does not exist, but I don't know what it is.
She claimed to enjoy all "good music". According to Lennox Berkeley, "A good waltz has just as much value to her as a good fugue, and this is because she judges a work solely on its aesthetic content." However, her taste has also been described as, "to put it mildly, eclectic": "She was an admirer of Debussy, and a disciple of Ravel. Although she bore little sympathy for Schoenberg and the Viennese dodecaphonicians, she was an ardent champion of Stravinsky".
She insisted on complete attention at all times: "Anyone who acts without paying attention to what he is doing is wasting his life. I'd go so far as to say that life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece."
In 1920, two of her favourite female students left her to marry. She thought they had betrayed their work with her and their obligation to music. Her attitude to women in music was contradictory: despite Lili's success and her own eminence as a teacher, she held throughout her life that a woman's duty was to be a wife and mother According to Ned Rorem , she would "always give the benefit of the doubt to her male students while overtaxing the females". She saw teaching as a pleasure, a privilege and a duty: "No-one is obliged to give lessons. It poisons your life if you give lessons and it bores you."
Boulanger accepted pupils from any background; her only criterion was that they had to want to learn. She treated students differently depending on their ability: her talented students were expected to answer the most rigorous questions and perform well under stress. The less able students, who did not intend to follow a career in music, were treated more leniently. Each student had to be approached differently: "When you accept a new pupil, the first thing is to try to understand what natural gift, what intuitive talent he has. Each individual poses a particular problem." "It does not matter what style you use, as long as you use it consistently." Boulanger used a variety of teaching methods, including traditional harmony, score reading at the piano, species counterpoint, analysis, and sight-singing (using fixed-Do solfège ).
When she first looked at a student's score, she often commented on
its relation to the work of a variety of composers: "hese measures
have the same harmonic progressions as Bach's F major prelude and
She always claimed that she could not bestow creativity onto her students and that she could only help them to become intelligent musicians who understood the craft of composition. "I can't provide anyone with inventiveness, nor can I take it away; I can simply provide the liberty to read, to listen, to see, to understand." Only inspiration could make the difference between a well-made piece and an artistic one. She believed that the desire to learn, to become better, was all that was required to achieve – always provided the right amount of work was put in. She would quote the examples of Rameau (who wrote his first opera at fifty), Wojtowicz (who became a concert pianist at thirty-one), and Roussel (who had no professional access to music till he was twenty-five), as counter-arguments to the idea that great artists always develop out of gifted children.
Her memory was prodigious: by the time she was twelve, she knew the whole of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier by heart. Students have described her as having every significant piece, by every significant composer, at her fingertips. Copland recalls,
Murray Perahia recalled being "awed by the rhythm and character" with which she played a line of a Bach fugue. Janet Craxton recalled listening to Boulanger's playing Bach chorales on the piano as "the single greatest musical experience of my life".
HONOURS AND AWARDS
* 1932 Chevalier to the Légion d\'honneur
Order of Polonia Restituta
* 1962 Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and
Howland Memorial Prize
* 1975 Médaille d'Or of the
Académie des Beaux-Arts
* Allons voir sur le lac d'argent (A. Silvestre), 2 voices, piano, 1905 * Ecoutez la chanson bien douce (Verlaine ), 1 voice, orchestra, 1905 * Les sirènes (Grandmougin ), female chorus, orchestra, 1905 * A l'aube (Silvestre), chorus, orchestra, 1906 * A l'hirondelle ( Sully Prudhomme ), chorus, orchestra, 1908 * La sirène (E. Adenis/Desveaux), 3 voices, orchestra, 1908 * Dnégouchka (G. Delaquys), 3 voices, orchestra, 1909 * Over 30 songs for 1 voice, piano, incl.:
Extase (Hugo ), 1901 Désepérance (Verlaine), 1902 Cantique de soeur Béatrice (Maeterlinck ), 1909 Une douceur splendide et sombre (A. Samain), 1909 Larme solitaire (Heine ), 1909 Une aube affaiblie (Verlaine), 1909 Prière (Bataille), 1909 Soir d'hiver (N. Boulanger), 1915 Au bord de la nuit, Chanson, Le couteau, Doute, L'échange (Mauclair), 1922 J'ai frappé (R. de Marquein), 1922 Chamber and solo works
* 3 pièces, organ, 1911, arr. cello, piano * 3 pièces, piano, 1914 * Pièce sur des airs populaires flamands, organ, 1917 * Vers la vie nouvelle, piano, 1917
* Allegro, 1905 * Fantaisie variée, piano, orchestra, 1912
With Raoul Pugno
* Les heures claires (Verhaeren ), 8 songs, 1 voice, piano, 1909 * La ville morte (d\'Annunzio ), opera, 1910–13
* Mademoiselle: Premiere Audience - Unknown Music of Nadia
Boulanger, Delos DE 3496 (2017)
* Tribute to Nadia Boulanger, Cascavelle VEL 3081 (2004)
* ^ Lennox Berkeley, Sir, Peter Dickinson,
Lennox Berkeley and
Friends: Writings, Letters and Interviews, page 45
* ^ Campbell, Don G. (August 1984). Master teacher, Nadia
Boulanger. Pastoral Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-912405-03-2 . Retrieved
28 April 2012.
* ^ Rosenstiel 1982 , pp. 10–13
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* ^ Monsaingeon 1985 , p. 20
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* ^ Rosenstiel 1982 , pp. 289–294
* ^ Weems, Katharine Lane, as told to Edward Weeks, Odds Were
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* ^ "Nadia Boulanger". naxos.com. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
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* Monsaingeon, Bruno (1985). Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger. Carcanet Press. ISBN 0-85635-603-4 . * Rosenstiel, Léonie (1982). Nadia Boulanger: A Life in Music. W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-01495-9 .
* The American Conservatory at Fontainebleau