Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Boulanger sisters

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was arguably the most important teacher of music in the 20th century. I would guess that most composers of that time studied either with her or one of her students. Copland, Philip Glass, Piazzolla, Piston, Francaix, Vigil Thompson......the list goes on. Aaron Copland said "she knew everything there was to know about music....pre-Bach and post-Stravinsky included". She taught rigorously using traditional harmony, counterpoint and sight-singing. She was the first woman to conduct a symphony orchestra (London, 1937) and between the World Wars brought Monteverdi into the musical mainstream, as well as bringing back French baroque and Renaissance music, and championing Stravinsky's music.

I would go on about this amazing musician, but it is actually her sister Lili (1893-1918) whose music we are playing on this concert. Nadia had always believed that Lili was the more gifted composer. Unfortunately most of her short life was spent in ill health, so her output was not huge. The 2 short trios  on the program have a wonderful character and a rather forward looking harmonic sense.