Back to Navigation page
Women of Note logo
two hundred and fifty years
of music by women
Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)

Germaine Tailleferre, Paris c.1920 Known as the only female member of 'Les Six', Tailleferre enjoyed acclaim with them in Paris in the 1920s. She was precociously gifted both as a musician and a painter, and won several first prizes at the Paris Conservatoire; she studied with Koechlin and Ravel. Satie called her his 'fille musicale', and she fitted naturally with the philosophy of 'Les Six', emphasising, in the spirit of Stravinskian neo-classicism, brevity, clarity and wit. She lived in America from 1926-7, where Charlie Chaplin was often a live-in guest. He tried to persuade her to come to Hollywood, which she declined, though she was much in demand as a skilful composer of film scores back in France in the '30s and '40s. Her concertos of the '30s enjoyed some success and she continued to compose until the end of her long life. Her best compositions are characterised by spontaneity, freshness and charm. Always modest and lacking assertiveness about her work, she summed up her talent as follows: "I write music because it amuses me. It's not great music, I know, but it's gay, light-hearted music which is sometimes compared with that of the 'petits maitres' of the 18th century. And that makes me very proud."

Click on these works for more details below: You can download and hear the start of the third movement of the Harp Concertino by clicking here. For general information about playing our sound clips, click here and return via your browser's Back button.

Back to Contents
Piano Concerto No 1, 1924
1. Vif, D major. 2. Adagio, B minor. 3. Finale: Allegro, D major. 13 mins
2 fl, ob, bn, 2 hn, tpt, timps, strings, solo piano
Tailleferre herself was the soloist at the 1924 Paris premiere; the work was later championed by Alfred Cortot, who declared it "no less beautiful than Bach." Bach is in fact the major influence behind the work; it uses motifs from the Third Brandenburg Concerto, as well as his rhythmic strength and energy. The piano plays all the way through in a sort of obbligato part. There are similarities in the part writing with the concerto grosso idiom, with harmonic influences from Stravinsky, and some Prokoviev-like toccata style writing. The slow movement has a beautiful, long-breathed Ravellian melody. The Finale returns to the vivacious atmosphere of the opening movement, with a gigue-like dance and pungent harmonies.
We, the Ambache, gave the UK premiere in 1984. In fact it was discovering this neglected, vivacious music which got me going on the whole project of performing music by women, which has led to creating this web-site.
Published by Heugel, Paris, France.

Back to Contents
Concertino for Flute, Piano and Chamber Orchestra, 1952
1. Pastorale: Allegro ma non troppo, F major. 2 Intermezzo: Andantino, D flat major. 3. Nocturne: Lento, B minor.
4. Rondo: Vivo, A minor.
Hp, Timp, strings, solo flute, solo piano. 15 mins
After the first performance in 1953 (with Jean-Pierre Rampal and Robert Veyron Lacroix) the solo parts were lost, and the work has only recently been reconstructed from a foggy French Radio recording. Deftly scored for its modest forces, the Concertino is in four compact movements. The Pastorale's main theme on the flute has an unmistakable 18th century flavour. The languid, lulling Intermezzo is built on long pedal points. The Nocturne has a cool, remote melancholy. And the fizzing Rondo recaptures the spirit of a baroque toccata, with its perpetuum mobile figuration and witty raillery between flute and keyboard.
Published by Billaudot, 14 Rue de l'Echiquier, 75010 Paris, France

Back to Contents
Piano Trio, 1916-17, completed/revised 1978
1. Allegro animato, F sharp minor. 2. Allegro Vivace, D major. 3. Moderato, B major. 4. Tres anime: F sharp minor.
18 mins
People often comment on the consistency of Tailleferre's style in the way she revised this youthful work while in her eighties. All the Tailleferre hall marks are there, including vivacious and rhythmic fast movements, and beautiful harmonies in the slow movement, which has associations to the 12 bar blues.
Published by Lemoine, 17 Rue de Pigalle, 75009 Paris, France

Back to Contents
Deuxieme Sonate pour violon et piano, 1951
1. Allegro non troppo, B flat. 2. Adagietto, D minor. 3. Final: Allegro, F major. 15 mins.
Considered by many to be among her best works, this sonata is a 1951 revision of the Violin Concerto of 1936. It is a mature work and demonstrates complete confidence of musical expression. It is both harmonically simpler and more emotionally direct than many other Tailleferre works. The opening Allegro is composed in straightforward sonata form and is characterised by a soaring lyricism, which was above all Tailleferre's special gift. The second movement is a poignant Adagietto. The Finale possesses a quintessentially French wit and charm.
Published by Durand, 215 Rue du Fg St-Honore, 75008 Paris, France (or Theodore Pressler, Bryn Mawr, USA)

Back to Contents
Marchand d'Oiseaux, 1923
Allegro moderato - Allegretto - Allegretto - Pavane - Lent - Final: Tres vite.
pic, fl, 2 ob, cor ang, 2 cl, 2 bn, 3 hn, 2 tpt, 2 tbn, strings, timp, perc, celeste, hp, pno. 30 mins
This ballet has Tailleferre's characteristic verve and joi de vivre; it was written in one month for the Ballets Suedois. Writing about her music in the weekly L'Intransigeant she said she "made allusions to several different styles, especially the light and pompous ballets of the 18th century which sparked with good humour." The Pavane for the bird sellers pays hommage to both the 18th century and the turn-of-the-century fete galante styles, as well as those of Faure and Ravel. The vital and rhythmic neo-baroque manner is one in which Tailleferre wrote some of her best music.
We gave the UK premiere in May 2002, and the Evening Standard described it as an "exhilarating neo-classical piece ..... dashing music, dashingly played."
Score and parts on hire from Heugel, Paris (or from United Music Publishers, 42 Rivington St, London EC2A 3BN)

Back to top or Back to Navigation page