Pioneers in their fields and two of the best-known women in music in the twentieth century, Nadia and Lili Boulanger have previously been considered in isolation from one another. Yet, as Caroline Potter’s new book demonstrates, their careers were closely linked during Lili Boulanger’s short life (1893-1918) and there are several intriguing connections between their musical works. This biography also provides the first full analysis of the Boulanger sisters’ musical styles, placing them within the context of French musical history. Their lives are also a case study in the issues of gender which surround music making even to the present day. Despite an unusually privileged upbringing, Nadia and Lili Boulanger exemplify the struggle women experienced when attempting to enter the professional music world. Lili became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913, and Nadia gained second place in 1908. Yet in spite of this initial success, Nadia Boulanger was to give up composing in her thirties and devoted the remainder of her long life to teaching. Her pupils included several of the great composers of the century, including Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter. This book, focusing on their musical careers, is essential reading for anyone interested in French music of the twentieth century.
Nadia and Lili Boulanger