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Boulanger, Nadia (Juliette)

paris cons organ sym

Boulanger, Nadia (Juliette), illustrious French teacher, sister of Lili (Juliette Marie Olga) Boulanger; b. Paris, Sept. 16, 1887; d. there, Oct. 22, 1979. Both her father and grandfather were teachers at the Paris Cons.; her mother, the Russian Countess Myshetskaya, was a professional singer, and it was from her that Boulanger received her first music lessons. She entered the Paris Cons., where she studied organ with Guilmant and Vierne, and composition with Fauré; she graduated with prizes in organ and theory; in 1908 she received the 2 nd Prix de Rome for her cantata La Sirène; she completed the composition of the opera by Raoul Pugno, La Ville Morte, left unfinished at his death; also composed cello music, piano pieces, and songs. Realizing that she could not compare with her sister Lili in talent as a composer, she devoted herself to teaching, and it was in that capacity that she found her vocation. She was assistant in a harmony class at the Paris Cons. (1909–24); was engaged as a teacher at the École Normale de Musique in Paris (1920–39); when the American Cons, was founded in 1921 at Fontainebleau, she joined its faculty as a teacher of composition and orchestration, becoming its director in 1950. She also had a large class of private pupils from all parts of the world, many of whom achieved fame; among Americans who went to Paris to study with her were Copland, Harris, Piston, Thomson, Carter, Diamond, Siegmeister, Irving Fine, Easley Blackwood, Berger, Vincent, and Shapero; others were Markevitch, Françaix, Lennox Berkeley, and Dinu Lipatti. Not all of her students were enthusiastic about her methods; some of them complained about the strict, and even restrictive, discipline she imposed on them; but all admired her insistence on perfection of form and accuracy of technique. Her tastes were far from the catholicity expected of teachers; she was a great admirer of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Ravel, but had little appreciation of Schoenberg and the modern Vienna School. She visited the U.S. several times; played the organ part in Copland’s Organ Sym. (which she advised him to compose) with the N.Y. Sym. Orch., under the direction of Walter Damrosch (Jan. 11, 1925), and was the first woman to conduct regular subscription concerts of the Boston Sym. Orch. (1938) and of the N.Y. Phil. (Feb. 11, 1939). During World War II, she stayed in America and taught classes at Radcliffe Coll., Wellesley Coll., and the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y. Returning to Paris in 1946, she took over a class in piano accompaniment at the Cons., and also continued her private teaching as long as her frail health permitted. Her 90th birthday was celebrated in Sept. 1977, with sincere tributes from her many students in Europe and America.

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