The Glory Years Continue: 1930s
Tailleferre's activities during the 1930s, when she had success on the stage with a ballet, a commission from the great Diaghilev and worked on a surrealist fantasy by Jean Cocteau.
Germaine Tailleferre finds success on the stage with a hit ballet, a commission from the great Diaghilev and collaborates on a surrealist fantasy by Jean Cocteau.
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.
In today's episode Donald Macleod charts Tailleferre's activities during the 1930s. This was an exhilarating period. In addition to a succession of stage works, she came to the attention of the influential conductor Pierre Monteux. It was he who commissioned her critically acclaimed Concerto for two pianos, chorus and orchestra, which she scored for the original combination of two pianos, chorus, saxophones and orchestra.