Nadia Boulanger

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Nadia Boulanger, 1910

Nadia Boulanger Juliette (* 16th September 1887 in Paris ; † 22. October 1979 ibid) was a French composer , pianist , conductor , Musiktheoretikerin and - pedagogue .


Nadia Boulanger (1925)

Nadia Boulanger was the daughter of the composer, conductor and singing teacher Ernest Boulanger (1815-1900) and the singer Raïssa Mychetskaja (1858-1935), a Russian nobleman. Her younger sister was the composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918). She began to learn the organ and composition from her father at the age of nine . She was later taught by Louis Vierne (1870–1937) and went to the Paris Conservatory . As early as 1903, Nadia Boulanger became deputy organist for Gabriel Fauré (1845–1925) at the organ of the La Madeleine church . In 1904, at the age of sixteen, she received the first prize in organ, accompaniment and composition, and in 1908 the second prize in the great Prix ​​de Rome in composition for her cantata La Sirène . She owned a Mutin Cavaillé organ in her apartment on Rue Ballu .

In 1914 she composed “Three Pieces” for violoncello and piano. The pianist Raoul Pugno (1852–1914) stood up for Nadia Boulanger and performed her Rhapsodie variée for piano and orchestra under her direction . He also composed a number of works with her, such as the song cycle of the Hellen Stunden ( Heures claires ). After his death, Nadia Boulanger devoted herself more to music education , orchestral conducting and the dissemination of the work of her sister Lili Boulanger . From 1921 she taught at the École Normale de Musique and at the newly founded Conservatoire Américain in Fontainebleau . In the same year she traveled to the USA for the first time, where she gave regular master classes from then on. She became one of the most famous composition teachers of the 20th century.

For example, she taught the French composer Maurice Journeau , and several generations of American composers were among her students, including Aaron Copland , Gerardo Guevara , Astor Piazzolla , Quincy Jones , Roy Harris and Philip Glass . Among the numerous Polish from it taught composers include names like Bacewicz , Zbigniew Bargielski , Wojciech Kilar , Stefan Kisielewski , Zygmunt Krauze , Krzysztof Meyer , Marta Ptaszynska , Kazimierz Serocki , Stanislaw Skrowaczewski , Michał Spisak , Witold Szalonek , Antoni Szalowski , Stanisław Wiechowicz and Antoni Wit . Her greatest piano student was the Romanian Dinu Lipatti (1917–1950), with whom she made the first joint recordings in 1937. Her recording of the Brahms Waltz op. 39 for four hands is still unmatched . She also had a close friendship with Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971). She taught his son Svyatoslaw Sulima Stravinsky (1910–1994), who also became a well-known musician, and arranged for Igor Stravinsky to teach at Harvard University .

When she conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1938 , she broke into a traditionally male domain. It was her first performance outside France and the first time this orchestra played under the baton of a woman. Her reputation as a conductor grew especially in connection with modern works and early music, for which she was very committed.

During the Second World War she lived as a teacher in the USA . In 1946 she returned to Paris. She took over a professorship at the Paris Conservatory, where she taught until her death. Perhaps she found her most important role as director of the Conservatoire Américain in Fontainebleau, an open, English-language summer academy of international standing.

Her apartment in Paris became a meeting point for the French musical world. In the "Boulangerie" (French means the bakery), among others, Aaron Copland , Maurice Ravel , Arthur Honegger , Leonard Bernstein , Priaulx Rainier , Grażyna Bacewicz , Vilayat Inayat Khan and Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan and Thea Musgrave , whom she instructed in harmony , composition , counterpoint , music analysis and instrumentation . At times she also taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England.


The opera “La Ville Morte”, composed in 1911/1912, is probably the best known of her works. She also wrote numerous songs and chamber music works.


Discography (selection)

  • Songs and chamber music: Five Mélodies (1909), Les Heures Claires (1909), Seven Mélodies (1922) for mezzo-soprano and piano; Vers la vie nouvelle for piano (1916); Three pieces for violoncello and piano (1913). Melinda Paulsen mezzo-soprano, Angela Gassenhuber piano, Friedemann Kupsa cello. Troubadisc TRO-CD 01407.
  • Clairières , songs by Nadia & Lili Boulanger. Nicholas Phan (tenor), Nora Huang (piano). Avie Recor (Harmonia Mundi)
  • Lili & Nadia Boulanger. Mélodies . Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Tristan Raës (piano). Aparte (Harmonia Mundi)


  • Jeanice Brooks: The musical work of Nadia Boulanger. Performing past and future between the years (Musical Performance and Reception). CAP, Cambridge 2013, ISBN 978-1-107-00914-1 .
  • Barrett A. Johnson: Training the composer. A comparative study between the pedagogical methodologies of Arnold Schönberg and Nadia Boulanger . Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle 2010.
  • Caroline Potter: Nadia and Lili Boulanger . Ashgate Publ., Aldershot 2006, ISBN 978-0-7546-0472-3 .
  • Léonie Rosenstiel: Nadia Boulanger. A Life in Music . WW Norton, New York 1998, ISBN 978-0-3933-1713-8 .
  • Jérôme Spycket: Nadia Boulanger . Lattès, Lausanne 1987, ISBN 2-601-00754-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Private correspondence with Théodore Stravinsky (owned by the Théodore Stravinsky Foundation, Geneva), as well as Stephen Walsh, Stravinsky , Vol. II: The Second Exile .
  2. Süddeutsche Zeitung: Nightmarishly gifted. Retrieved July 5, 2020 .