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The War Years: 1940s to 1950s

Donald Macleod focuses on the war years, when Tailleferre was forced to leave occupied France and live in America. Returning to her country, her unhappy marriage drew to a close.

Germaine Tailleferre is forced to leave occupied France and spend the war years in America. Returning to France her unhappy marriage draws to a close.

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.

Donald Macleod's survey reaches the war years. Traumatised by her experiences and unable to take her manuscripts with her to America, Tailleferre's prolific capacity for composition grinds almost to a complete halt. Returning to France in 1946, Tailleferre picks up the reins once again, with a burst of creativity, resulting in operas, concertos and chamber music. From the archive of Radio France we hear a rare excerpt from Tailleferre's comic-opera "Il était un petit navire", sung by one of Francis Poulenc's favourite singers, Denise Duval.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Fugue du parapluie [Transcription for piano after Act 1 finale of the opera Il etait un petit navire]

    Performer: Denise Duval. Performer: Jean Giraudeau.
  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Paris sentimental

    Performer: Claude Collett. Performer: Mario Hacquard.
    • Polymnie.
    • POL160650.
  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Sonata no. 1 for violin and piano

    Performer: Angela Gassenhuber. Performer: Renate Eggebrecht.
    • TROUBADISC.
    • TROCV-014061.
  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Sonata for harp

    Performer: Isabelle Moretti.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • HMT 7905184.
  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Concerto for soprano and orchestra

    Composer: Germaine Tailleferre. Performer: Janine Micheau. Performer: Orchestre national de France. Performer: Gaston Poulet.
  • Germaine Tailleferre

    Concertino for flute, piano and orchestra

    Conductor: Nicola Paiement. Performer: California Parallele Ensemble. Performer: Orchestra of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
    • HELICON.
    • HE-1048.

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