Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Setting a new agenda20180507

Donald Macleod explores Lili Boulanger's prize-winning cantata Faust et Helene.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the productive years surrounding Lili Boulanger's pioneering victory in the Prix de Rome.

As the first female winner, Lili Boulanger's success in France's most prestigious composing competition, in 1913, is a significant landmark in the history of overcoming gender discrimination. Artistically it identified her as one of the most outstanding composers of her generation, with the prospect of a great future ahead. Tragically she was not to have long to fulfil that expectancy. Having struggled with ill-health from the age of 2, she died in 1918 at the age of just 24, three weeks after Debussy, a composer from whom she derived much inspiration. Yet, despite the brevity of her life, Boulanger's natural facility for composition and unwavering dedication to her craft provides us with a surprising number of predominantly vocal works.

Participating in the Prix de Rome was something of a family affair. Some years earlier Lili's father, Ernest had won the prize and in 1908 her elder sister Nadia had come a very creditable second. Following in their footsteps, Lili committed herself to the task fully and was rewarded, when, having mastered all the strict competition requirements, her cantata Faust et Hélène, which she dedicated to her sister Nadia, completely won over the jury.

Psaume 24
Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur
Lamoureux Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conductor

Les Sirènes
Amanda Pitt, soprano
The New London Chamber Choir
Andrew Ball, piano
James Wood, conductor

Renouveau
Amanda Pitt, soprano
Jeanette Ager, mezzo soprano
Martyn Hill, tenor
New London Chamber Choir
Andrew Ball, piano

Faust et Hélène
Lynne Dawson, soprano
Bonaventura Bottone, tenor
Jason Howard, bass
BBC Philharmonic
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor

Nocturne
Janine Jenson, violin
Itamar Golan, piano

Producer: Johannah Smith for BBC Wales.

02The Boulangers at rue Ballu20180508

Donald Macleod explores Lili Boulanger's music-making with her family.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores Lili Boulanger's extraordinary childhood, music-making with the most influential musicians.

As the first female winner, Lili Boulanger's success in France's most prestigious composing competition, in 1913, is a significant landmark in the history of overcoming gender discrimination. Artistically it identified her as one of the most outstanding composers of her generation, with the prospect of a great future ahead. Tragically she was not to have long to fulfil that expectancy. Having struggled with ill-health from the age of 2, she died in 1918 at the age of just 24, three weeks after Debussy, a composer from whom she derived much inspiration. Yet, despite the brevity of her life, Boulanger's natural facility for composition and unwavering dedication to her craft provides us with a surprising number of predominantly vocal works.

Lili Boulanger was destined for a career in music from birth. Her father and her elder sister Nadia were accomplished professional musicians, her mother had studied voice. Living in the centre of Paris, the family household was frequented by some of the most prominent names in France's musical establishment, with regular soirees providing the perfect opportunity for young Lili to try out her compositions.

Attente
Reflets
Sonia de Beaufort, mezzo soprano
Alain Jacquon, piano

Theme and Variations for piano
Emile Naoumoff, piano

Sous-Bois
Pendant La tempête
La Source
Philharmonia Chor, Stuttgart
Emile Naoumoff, piano
Helmut Wolf, conductor

D'un soir triste
D'un matin de printemps
BBC Philharmonic
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor

Le retour
Patrice Michaels, soprano
Rebecca Rollins, piano.

03The power of sisterhood20180509

Donald Macleod considers close ties between Lili Boulanger and her elder sister Nadia.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod considers the artistic significance of the relationship between Lili Boulanger and her elder sister Nadia, and features Boulanger's only song cycle, Clairieres dans le Ciel.

As the first female winner, Lili Boulanger's success in France's most prestigious composing competition, in 1913, is a significant landmark in the history of overcoming gender discrimination. Artistically it identified her as one of the most outstanding composers of her generation, with the prospect of a great future ahead. Tragically she was not to have long to fulfil that expectancy. Having struggled with ill-health from the age of 2, she died in 1918 at the age of just 24, three weeks after Debussy, a composer from whom she derived much inspiration. Yet, despite the brevity of her life, Boulanger's natural facility for composition and unwavering dedication to her craft provides us with a surprising number of predominantly vocal works.

Nadia was an important figure in Lili Boulanger's life. It had been inculcated by their parents at an early age that Nadia must bear responsibility for her younger sister. It was a role she fulfilled not only throughout Lili's life, but also after her early death in 1918, as she continued to promote Lili's music until her own death in 1979.

Hymne au soleil
Jeanette Ager, mezzo soprano
New London Chamber Choir
James Woods, conductor
Andrew Ball, piano
Ian Townsend, piano third hand

D'un vieux jardin
D'un jardin clair
Alain Jacquon, piano

Clairières dans le Çiel
Nicky Spence, tenor
Malcolm Martineau, piano

Psalm 129
Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur
Orchestre Lamoureux
Igor Markevitch, conductor

Producer: Johannah Smith for BBC Wales.

04The Great War20180510

Donald Macleod follows Lili Boulanger's activities during the first World War.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod follows Lili Boulanger's activities during the first World War, when her music-making possibilities were restricted.

As the first female winner, Lili Boulanger's success in France's most prestigious composing competition, in 1913, is a significant landmark in the history of overcoming gender discrimination. Artistically it identified her as one of the most outstanding composers of her generation, with the prospect of a great future ahead. Tragically she was not to have long to fulfil that expectancy. Having struggled with ill-health from the age of 2, she died in 1918 at the age of just 24, three weeks after Debussy, a composer from whom she derived much inspiration. Yet, despite the brevity of her life, Boulanger's natural facility for composition and unwavering dedication to her craft provides us with a surprising number of predominantly vocal works.

The advent of the Great War resulted in the closure of the Medici Villa in Rome, where, as a Prix de Rome winner, Lili Boulanger had been staying. Too frail to undertake any physical occupation, but determined to make a contribution, Boulanger explored other ways in which she could support the war effort. She soon identified a way and set to work.

Pie Jesu for voice, string quartet, harp and organ
Alain Fauqueur, boy soprano
Members of the Lamoureux Orchestra
J.J. Grunewald, organ
Igor Markevitch, conductor

Pour les funérailles d'un soldat
Vincent le Texier, baritone
Choeur Symphonique de Namur
Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
Mark Stringer, conductor

Dans l'immense tristesse
Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo soprano
Hartmut Höll, piano

Psaume 130: Du fond de l'abime
Sally Bruce-Payne, mezzo soprano
Julian Podger, tenor
The Monteverdi Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Producer: Johannah Smith for BBC Wales.

05Ambitions and horizons20180511

Donald Macleod explores Lili Boulanger's larger scale final projects.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores Lili Boulanger's larger scale final projects and the impact her harmonic language has had on some contemporary musicians.

As the first female winner, Lili Boulanger's success in France's most prestigious composing competition, in 1913, is a significant landmark in the history of overcoming gender discrimination. Artistically it identified her as one of the most outstanding composers of her generation, with the prospect of a great future ahead. Tragically she was not to have long to fulfil that expectancy. Having struggled with ill-health from the age of 2, she died in 1918 at the age of just 24, three weeks after Debussy, a composer from whom she derived much inspiration. Yet, despite the brevity of her life, Boulanger's natural facility for composition and unwavering dedication to her craft provides us with a surprising number of predominantly vocal works.

In conclusion to this week's series on Lili Boulanger, Donald Macleod follows the ailing young composer's frustrated attempts to finish writing an opera, the impact her impending death had on her musical outlook and the connection her music makes today.

Cortège
Jascha Heifetz, violin
Brooks Smith, piano

Soir sur la plaine
Amanda Pitt, soprano
Martyn Hill, tenor
Peter Johnson, baritone
The New London Chamber Choir
James Wood, conductor

D'un soir triste
D'un matin de printemps
Trio des Alpes
Mirjam Tschopp, violin
Claude Hauri, cello
Corrado Greco, piano

Pie Jesu, arr. Belmondo
Lionel Belmondo and his Ensemble

Vieille Priere Bouddhique
Julian Podger, tenor
The Monteverdi Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Producer: Johannah Smith for BBC Wales.