Composer Information

Birth - September, 16 1887 | Paris, France

Death - October 22, 1979 | Paris, France

Nationality - French

Era - 20th/21st Century

Composer Biography

Written by: Trevor Nelson

Nadia Boulanger’s father was a composer and recognized her talent at an early age. She entered the Paris Conservatoire when she was only ten years old. She studied harmony with Paul Vidal and composition with both Widor and Fauré. Her submission of an instrumental fugue (rather than the standard vocal fugue) for consideration of the Prix de Rome resulted in a bit of a scandal. She eventually placed second in the competition. She quit composing in the early 1920s after the death of her younger sister, Lili. Nadia dedicated much of her life to championing the music of her younger sister. Boulanger went on to be one of the leading composition teachers of the 20th century. At the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, she taught the likes of Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, Leonard Bernstein, and Virgin Thomson. As a teacher, she encouraged her students to find their personal voice and sound. She was also one of the first female professional conductors. Her music tends to be quite chromatic all while remaining rooted in common-practice harmony.

See Also

  • Jeanice Brooks. The Musical Work of Nadia Boulanger: Performing Past and Future Between the Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • Don G. Campbell. Master Teacher: Nadia Boulanger. Washington, D. C.: Pastoral Press, 1984.
  • Kimberly Francis. Teaching Stravinsky: Nadia Boulanger and the Consecration of a Modernist Icon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Léonie Rosenstiel. Nadia Boulanger: A Life in Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.


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