GERMAINE TAILLEFERRE (1892–1983)
Germaine Marcelle Tailleferre was born on the 19th April 1892 in Parc Saint-Maur, just outside of Paris. She exhibited exeptional musical prowess and precociousness at the piano from an early age and would begin to compose at the age of five. She began her formal musical training in 1904 at the Paris Conservatory, despite strong paternal objection, under the tutelage of Mrs. Eva Meyer (solfeggio), later studying under Dallier (harmony), Caussade (counterpoint), and Estyle (accompaniment), winning several prizes. Ironically, having written many short pieces during her student years, though studying piano, she would not begin to study composition seriously until quite late in a formal training.
In 1917, Eric Satie heard Tailleferre’s Jeux de Plein Air, for 2 pianos, proclaiming her as his “musical daughter”, thus becoming one of the “Nouveaux Jeunes”, later to be baptised by Henry Collet as “The French Six” (commonly referred to as “Le groupe des six”, whose guiding spirit was Cocteau, which also included Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Auric and Durey. The “Groupe”, though having given many ingormal concerts of their works, produced formally only an album of short piano pieces and a ballet (without Durey) Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel, evoking always a “joie de vivre”. Tailleferre continued her study of composition, first with Koechlin, and informally with Ravel.
When Tailleferre voyaged to America in the mid-twenties to perform as soloist in her compositions, she met in New-York City the American caricaturist Ralph Barton, and were quickly married. Barton, however, became jealous of her increasing success and cruelly discouraged her from composing, but Germaine did manage to write some important works. The couple later settled in Paris but were soon divorced.
Tailleferre then met the french lawyer Jean Lageat and were soon married in 1931. Tailleferre gave birth to her only child, Françoise, who became a concert-pianist in her own right, living both in Paris and Grasse._However, once again Germaine met with her husband’s abuse and was discouraged from composition. However, Tailleferre managed to complete her extraordinary Cantate de Narcisse (1937), having collaborated with Paul Valery for the text.
The family emigrated to America in 1942 and returned (with Germaine having not composed) four years later, but Germaine and Jean Legeat were estranged. She began to compose seriously again and produced many works, including operas La Petite Sirène and Le Maître, several opera-bouffes La Fille d’Opéra, works for orchestra Petite suite, songs Chansons du Folklore de France, and music for films, T.V. and radio. Her music, joyous though sophisticated, is always accessible.
Germaine Tailleferre continued to compose for various genres, preferring chamber works, all in an unquestionably mature style, though youthful. She was awarded the Medal of the City of Paris, the Prix Italia, among others, and taught at the Schola Cantorum and later at L’Ecole Alsacienne, until her ninetieth year.
Her Concerto de la fidèlité was premiered at the Paris Opera in 1982. Germaine Tailleferre died in Paris on the 7th of November, 1983.
- DVD release: “L’affaire Tailleferre” 4 opéras bouffes : La fille d’opéra, Le bel ambitieux, La pauvre Eugénie, Monsieur Petitpois achète un château, by the Orchestra of Limoges and Limousin, under the direction of Christophe Rousset, stage director Marie-Ève Signeyrole, for the company BelAir Média / Réseau Canopé.
- Les quatre bouffes, “pocket opera” - cycle Du Style Galant au Style Méchant, libretto by Denise Centore, for solo voices and chamber orchestra, are on the Baccalaureat program 2016-2017-2018, music option.
Works composed by Germaine TAILLEFERRE
> 2015 / BelAir Média / Réseau Canopé - L’affaire Tailleferre, quatre opéras bouffes
Small lyrical history of French art, the Galant Style From Style Naughty, on libretto by Denise Centore
for soloists voices and chamber orchestra
LA FILLE D’OPERA (in the style of Rameau)
LE BEL AMBITIEUX (in the style of Rossini)
LA PAUVRE EUGENIE (in the style of Charpentier)
MONSIEUR PETITPOIS ACHETE UN CHATEAU (in the style of Offenbach)
Orchestre de Limoges et du Limousin
Christophe Rousset (conductor)
Marie-Ève Signeyrole (staging)
> 2000 / Timpani IC1063 - Germaine Tailleferre : violon, violoncelle et piano
SONATINE, for violin and piano
Massimo Marin (violin)
Cristina Ariagno (piano)
> 1994 / Cambria CD-1085 - Germaine Tailleferre : Musique de chambre
SONATINE, for violin and piano
Ruth Ehrlich (violin)
Maria Eckert (piano)