Donald Macleod focuses on Tailleferre's early life, when she braved her father's stern opposition to studying music and made friends with future members of Les Six.
Germaine Tailleferre braves her father's stern opposition to study music, becoming friends with future members of Les Six, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger and Georges Auric along the way.
There can't be many instances where studying music is likened to being a street-walker on one of the most shady streets in Paris. That was the accusation Germaine Tailleferre's father hurled at her, a child prodigy who wanted to take her music studies more seriously. It fell to Tailleferre's enterprising mother to come up with a solution. After her father left for work, Tailleferre was escorted to her music lessons each day by some obliging local nuns.
This unpromising start turned into a long and largely successful career in which Tailleferre continued to write music up to her death, at the age of 91, in 1983.
Fame found Tailleferre early on, in the 1920s, when she was a member of the group of musicians eventually titled "Les Six". Initially championed by Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, two of the most influential voices among the Parisian avant-garde, the group, which comprised Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Francis Poulenc, Louis Durey and Tailleferre, prospered in a heady environment of artistic expression and friendship. Extending across the Arts, they collaborated with Picasso, Georges Braque and Marie Laurencin and poets like Paul Claudel, Paul Valery, Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob.
Two disastrous marriages and the occupation of France during the second world war curtailed Tailleferre's musical activities and may at least in part explain why her early fame dwindled in later years. Yet, while much of her music remains in manuscript form, including a large body of music for film, television and radio, happily this shadowy figure among "Les Six" is returning to the limelight. Presenting her work for the first time on "Composer of the Week", Tailleferre's published legacy reveals a rich treasure trove of chamber works, solo piano, concertos, ballets, operas and songs.
Today, Donald Macleod explores Tailleferre's early life. Entering the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, Tailleferre won numerous prizes. A talented pianist, she also studied the harp. Her mastery of the latter encouraged her to produce two of her most popular and enduring pieces for the instrument, a sonata written in 1957, and the earlier Concertino for harp and orchestra, widely appreciated for its sparkling orchestration and sense of mischievousness.
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