the music of ‘Tailleferre’

Leportrait-300x250Michael Johnson at Open Letters Monthly:

Tailleferre struggled to be considered asexual in musical terms, asking to be called simply “a composer,” not a “woman composer.” Even today her granddaughter Elvie de Rudder, still teaching music in a Paris lycée, bristles at those who refer to her as “Germaine.” Nobody calls Milhaud “Darius” or Poulenc “Francis,” she says. “So just call her ‘Tailleferre’.” Easy first-name usage can connote condescension, especially in protocol-sensitive France.

With hindsight, we can conclude that Tailleferre was cheated out of her rightful place in the legacy of Les Six. The other more prominent members – Poulenc, Milhaud and Arthur Honegger – are routinely credited as originators of a modern French School of composing. No less an authority on contemporary music as the late Joseph Machlis maintained in his book Introduction to Contemporary Music that Tailleferre and another member of the group, Louis Durey, “dropped from sight” after a brush with fame in the 1920s. Not true. They continued making an impact of their own choosing and at their own pace.

Tailleferre’s natural modesty didn’t help her career. She undervalued herself in part because of the patriarchal culture of early 20th century Europe. Playing her submissive role to the hilt, she told an interviewer she had no grand pretensions about her oeuvre. “It’s not great music, I know, but it’s gay, light hearted music which is sometimes compared with that of the ‘petits maîtres’ of the 18th century. And that makes me very proud.’’ She added, “I write music because it amuses me.” You can almost hear her tiny voice apologizing for what she has done.

more here.