Boulanger Sisters

Home / Artists

Years: 1887-1979/1893-1918

Place of birth: Francia

Members of a line of musicians and trained with Fauré and Saint-Saëns, the aptitudes of the sisters Nadia and Lili Boulanger surprised in French musical life, dominated - as in all of Europe - by men.
We suggest listening to the antiphon "Renouveau" while you continue reading:
Lili Boulanger, the youngest of the sisters:
Nadia Boulanger's younger sister, Marie Juliette Olga known as Lili Boulanger was born in 1893, grew up in a family of musicians: her father, Ernest Boulanger, was a composer and winner of the Prix de Rome in 1835. At the age of six, Lili deciphered melodies already on the piano, highlighting those of Gabriel Fauré who accompanies him in his performances. She was admitted at the National Conservatory of Paris and four years later she won the Prix de Rome competition with the cantata Faust et Hélène. She not only became the first woman to receive this distinction, but she was also the youngest recipient of this award. By the time, she was 19 years old.

Lili Boulanger died prematurely at the age of 25. She, rarely in good health, experienced little of real life, though the maturity of her music suggests that she knew as much about her as anyone who twice her age.

Nadia boulanger
Nadia Boulanger born in 1887 in Paris. She was a fierce, forceful, charismatic, loyal and passionate woman. In addition to being a composer, she was orchestral conductor and one of the most influential composition teachers of the 20th century as well. As unlikely as it may sound, this modest-looking lady of Romanian, Russian and French ancestry, who lived to the age of 92, ended up, in fact, helping to create the sound of the modern world. The untimely death of her little sister, Lili, would profoundly affect Nadia, who since then turned to teaching abandoning composition.

Why is it known as; " the best music teacher of all time ”?

Nadia Boulanger was a student of Gabriel Fauré, Ravel's fellow student, friend of Paul Valéry, Manuel de Falla and Stravinski …

Although her teaching base was in the family's apartment at 36 Rue Ballu in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, she also taught in the United States and the United Kingdom, and worked with major conservatories, including Juilliard School, Yehudi Menuhin School, Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music.

Among them, her roster of music students sounds like the 20th century Hall of Fame. Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Astor Piazzolla, Philip Glass, John Eliot Gardiner, Daniel Barenboim, or Elliott Carter. Boulanger was also a mentor to Igor Stravinsky and a fervent promoter of his music when most of the musical world doubted his genius.

All these giants of music, so different but so innovative in their ways of doing, studied with Boulanger. She provided them with a rigorous foundation in academic musical analysis, but somehow allowed each of them to find their own distinctive language: perhaps the very definition of what a great teacher does.

Boulanger - who died in 1979 - would be surprised to know that it was the foundation of learning and drive for one of his students, Quincy Jones, who would produce Thriller for Jackson three years later and that it remains the best-selled album of all times, with more than 65 million copies.

“Nadia Boulanger had a unique way of encouraging and eliciting each student's own voice, even if they were not yet aware of what that voice could be” - Quincy Jones
Personal achievements
In addition to her remarkable teaching career, her talent for observing beyond what could be perceived and her passion, made her became the first woman to conduct many of the leading American and European symphony orchestras, including the BBC Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Hallé Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Nadia was also responsible for the premiere of a series of groundbreaking world compositions.

In the words of one of her students: "Nadia Boulanger," says Quincy Jones, "was the most amazing woman I have ever met in my life.”

Historically is figure in the shadow, ¿ How is it possible?

Boulanger's name remains widely unknown outside of elite classical music circles, despite the astonishing impact it had on the soundtrack of all of our lives, not only in the classical world.

Quite simply, it is frankly unimaginable that a man with a similar degree of influence over 20th century music would have been so ignored.
Lili Boulanger

Instrumental music

• Preludio en Si, para piano (1911)
• Preludio en Re bemol, para piano (1911)
• D’un jardin clair, para piano (1914)
• D’un vieux jardin, para piano (1914)
• Morceau de piano, thème et variations, para piano(1911-14)
• Pièce, para violín o flauta y piano (sin título)
• Cortège, para violín o flauta y piano (1914)
• Nocturne, para violín y piano (1911)
• D'un matin de printemps, para violín, violonchelo o flauta y piano u orquesta (1917-18)
• D’un soir triste, para violín o violonchelo y piano u orquesta (1917-1918)

Choral music

• Sous-bois, para coro a 4 voces y piano (1911)
• Soleils de septembre, para coro mixto a 4 voces y piano u órgano
• Les sirènes, para coro a 3 voces femeninas y piano u orquesta (1911)
• Le soir, para coro a 4 voces y piano u orquesta (1912)
• La tempête, para coro a 3 voces masculinas y piano u orquesta (1912)
• La source, para coro y piano u orquesta (1912)
• Hymne au soleil, para contralto, coro mixto y piano u orquesta (1912)
• La nef légère, para coro a 4 voces y piano
• Pour les funérailles d’un soldat, para barítono, coro mixto y piano u orquesta (1912-13)
• Soir sur la plaine, para soprano, tenor, coro mixto y piano u orquesta (1913) • 2 fugas para cuatro voces (1912 y 1913)
• Faust et Hélène, cantata para mezzo-soprano, tenor, barítono, coro y orquesta
• Psaume 24 : La terre appartient à l’Éternel, para tenor, coro mixto, órgano y orquesta (1916)
• Psaume 129 : Ils m'ont assez opprimé dès ma jeunesse, para barítono, coro masculino y orquesta (1910-16)
• Psaume 130 : Du fond de l’abîme, para contralto, tenor, coro mixto y orquesta (1910-17)
• Vieille prière bouddhique, para tenor, coro mixto y piano u orquesta (1914-17)
• La Princesse Maleine, opéra en 5 actos basada en el drama epónimo de Maurice Maeterlinck (inacabada)

Vocal music

• Renouveau, para coro a 4 voces mixtas y piano u orquesta (1911-13)
• Maïa, cantata para soprano, tenor, bajo y piano
• Frédégonde, cantata para soprano, tenor, bajo y piano
• Attente, para voz y piano (1909)
• Reflets, para voz y piano (1911)
• Le retour, para voz y piano (1912)
• Clairières dans le ciel, ciclo de trece melodías para voz y piano (1913-14)
• Dans l’immense tristesse, para voz y piano (1916)
• Pie Jesu, para soprano, cuarteto de cuerda, arpa y órgano (1918)

Nadia Boulanger

• Allons voir sur le lac d'argent (Paul-Armand Silvestre), 1905
• Ecoutez la chanson bien douce (Paul Verlaine), 1905
• Les sirènes, 1905
• À l'aube (Paul-Armand Silvestre), chorus, orchestra, 1906
• À l'hirondelle (Sully Prudhomme), 1908
• La sirène (E. Adenis/Desveaux), 1908
• Dnégouchka (G. Delaquys), 1909
• 30 canciones para voz y piano
• 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

Orchestra works

• Allegro, 1905
• Fantaisie variée, 1912
• Les heures claires (Verhaeren),1909
• La ville morte (d'Annunzio), opera, 1910–1913
Discover more
A cycle of the analysis of her orchestral works:

Nadia Boulanger: her teacher’s interviewed

Suggestions: Documentary "Portrait of Nadia Boulanger" by Bruno Monsaingeon from 1977, based on his own book

Suggestions: The book "Mademoiselle" Conversations with Nadia Boulanger by Bruno Monsaingeon (1985) Excerpt availabe at: Acantilado)
«A book that not only honors her memory but also stands as a unique monument to understand the artistic and especially pedagogical height of one .- Alberto Monterroso, Córdoba -Cuadernos del Sur