Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Germaine Tailleferre

Tailleferre
from Berkeley...

Returning to the 20th century French composers and especially French women composers from my November 10 post...  After the Boulanger sisters, two other women composers spring immediately to mind. First and foremost, Germaine Tailleferre, one of the most famous French women composers of the 20th century.

Tailleferre was the only woman of Les Six, a handful of six composers (well, that's the tautological point of the group name, no?) composers from the first half of of 20th century France. This is as opposed to The Five, another famous handful from music history, from 19th century Russia.  There are several apocryphal stories about who started the name and why, but all make clear reference to The Five or the Mighty Handful. i.e., five (yes, yes, that's why they're called The Five...) composers from 19th-century Russia, who never seem to have referred to themselves in that way.

The 20th century name, "Les Six," seems to have become official with an article by French critic Henri Collet and--unlike the Russians in The Five--the group did use that term for themselves.

Les Six did a handful (there's that word again) of collaborative projects, sometimes with other composers, and only once with all six of Les Six.

Mighty Five*
So who were the five in The Five and the six in Les Six?
The Five: Balakirev (at the top in the compiled picture,) Cui (below him, left), Mussorgsky (to his right), Rimsky-Korsakov (lower left) and Borodin (lower right).

Les Six (as noted in the picture, below, right): Auric, Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, and--miracle of miracles, a woman!--Germaine Tailleferre. They're depicted in this painting on the right by Jacques-Emile Blanche (Center: pianist Marcelle Meyer. Left, bottom to top, Tailleferre, Milhaud, Honegger, Durey. Right, standing, bottom to top, Poulenc, Cocteau; seated, Auric). 

"Les groupe des six," 1921
Not all of them are famous today, but all five in the Five have fared somewhat better historically compared to Les Six of, well, the six. It could just a question of odds, one in five being better odds than one in six. Or not. Plus one of the six was a woman. Women composers haven't fared well at all historically. Why that's the case is a very long discussion for a series of rainy days.

More on Tailleferre in a future post...and on who the mysterious other famous 20th century French woman composer is that I referred to at the start of today's post.

Any guesses who that mystery woman composer might be?  Comment if you think you know and/or check back in a week!

What I'm reading: Infinitas, The Map to Everywhere, the Handbook for Dragon Slayers.

What I'm listening to: "Six chansons francaises" by Germaine Tailleferre (from Fabulous Femmes, my own very first CD :), a nice blast from the past); Handel's Tolomeo, and Trois poemes desenchantes by Maurice Delage. (Plus I can't get the lovely Mozart Laudate Dominum from yesterday's Christmas concert out of my head. A delightful ear-worm to have running in my head!)

What I'm working on: same...

*"Mighty Handful". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mighty_Handful.jpg#/media/File:Mighty_Handful.jpg
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