Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)

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01Breaking Free: 1892 To 192020150413

Tailleferre's early life, when she braved her father's stern opposition to studying music.

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.

02Les Six: 1920s20150414

Donald Macleod follows Tailleferre's activities after leaving the Paris Conservatoire.

Germaine Tailleferre's music is championed by Eric Satie. Calling her his "musical daughter", soon Tailleferre joins the young composers who eventually become known as "Les Six".

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 follows Tailleferre's activities after leaving the prestigious Paris Conservatoire. Identified by Erick Satie and given Jean Cocteau's seal of approval, Tailleferre's reputation grows through concerts of her work and the glowing critical reception to her String Quartet and her lyrical first sonata for violin and piano.

03The Glory Years Continue: 1930s20150415

Donald Macleod focuses on Tailleferre's activities during the 1930s.

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.

04The War Years: 1940s To 1950s20150416

Donald Macleod focuses on the war years, when Tailleferre was forced to leave France.

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 ├ętait un petit navire", sung by one of Francis Poulenc's favourite singers, Denise Duval.

05Les Six Reunions - 1950s Onwards20150417

Tailleferre's life from the 1950s onwards, as she continued to write inventive music.

Germaine Tailleferre, celebrated as a member of "Les Six" continues to write her trademark inventive music, with several commissions from Radio France and a brief experiment with serialism.

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 life from the 1950s onwards. Punctuated by a series of commemorations marking her association with the artistic group of friends "Les Six", Tailleferre's projects were as varied as ever, including a series of comic operas and a chamber opera, "The Little Mermaid", after the famous story by Hans Christian Andersen.