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Celebrating
two hundred and fifty years
of music by women
Louise Talma (1906-96)

Louise Talma Talma was an American composer who won a plethora of awards for her works. She studied composition with Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau School of Music in France, and from 1936 was the first American member of the faculty there. She was the first woman to be awarded two Guggenheim fellowships. Among her many other honours were a Senior Fulbright Research Grant, and the Sibelius Medal for Composition from the Harriet Cohen International Awards. Talma was also the first American woman to have an opera performed in a major European opera house; it received a 20 minue standing ovation. Her early works are tonal and neo-classical, and her whole output is marked by clarity of line, gesture and proportion. In the 1950s she began to experiment with serialism, and developed a mature style that incorporated 12-tone techniques into a freely tonal context.

To hear Diana Ambache talk about Louise Talma, click here.

The new Ambache Chamber Orchestra recording of Talma's music was released by Naxos Records in July 2005. For details see www.ambache.co.uk. A click here will take you to the appropriate page; return via your browser's Back Button.

Click on these works for more details below:
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Full Circle. 1985
2 fl, cl, timp, perc, pn, strings. 13 mins
Adagio and Allegro interwoven
This is in one continuous movement, alternating slow and fast sections in a neo-classical language. It opens with a solo viola in melancholy mode, and her lyrical writing is highly expressive of lonely sadness. The fast sections have an attractive ironic humour, with a motor energy sometimes reminiscent of Stravinsky's rhythmic drive. The writing shows a commanding understanding of texture, in the contrasting use of strings and wind, and the colouring of the obbligato piano and the percussion (suspended cymbal, snare drum, wood blocks).
Rental only from Carl Fischer, 2480 Industrial Blvd, Paoli, PA 19301, USA (Or through Boosey & Hawkes, London)
The Ambache Chamber Orchestra gave the European première in October 2003; The Independent described it as "a likeable piece offering moments of real pleasure".

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Dialogues. 1963
3 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 4 tpt, 3 hn, 3 tbn, 3 tba, timp, perc, cel, xyl, solo pn. 20 mins
1. Challenge. 2. Struggle. 3. Respite. 4. Pursuit. 5. Peace.
This piece was written 'In memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy'. It has quite angular writing, perhaps from feelings of anger at Kennedy's death. The complexity of the writing suggest it would need to be performed with a conductor. The first movement combines brilliance and lyricism. Struggle speaks for itself, and Respite has incredible delicacy. Pursuit has scherzo-like qualities, sometimes in hunting rythm, the whole comes to a restful conclusion. The publisher's version of the full score is in fact only a 2 piano reduction. There is a full score in the NYPL.
Rental only from Carl Fischer, 2480 Industrial Blvd, Paoli, PA 19301, USA (Or through Boosey & Hawkes, London)

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The Ambient Air. 1980-83
Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano. 15 mins
I. Echo Chamber: Moderato; II. Driving Rain: Allegro Vivace; III. Creeping Fog: Lento
The opening flute motif is described by Talma as the song of a nightingale in the courtyard of the American Academy in Rome, Spring 1956. From this evocative startiong point she explores a wide range of sonorities, including muted strings, harmonics and sul ponticello. This is all part of the exceptional clarity in her thinking. It is characteristic of her late style that she combines twelve-tone technique with a tonal base.
Hire from Carl Fischer.

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Seven Episodes. 1987
Flute, Viola & Piano. 7 mins
I. Andante; II. Giocoso; III. Poco meno mosso; IV. Doppio meno mosso; V. Poco piu mosso; VI. Piu mosso; VII. (No marking - double time).
The work is like a set a variations. Starting with a soulful theme, different ways of looking at it are then explored. First is a characteristically playful version, and then she returns to the lyrical mode, working gradually back to the witty and piquant manner in which she is so effective.
Henmar Press, now sold by Edition C. F. Peters No 67170

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Diadem. 1979
Tenor or soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello & Piano. 12 mins
I. Confucius: Moderato; II. Middle Ages: Allegro molt vivace; III. The Peterborough Lapidary: Moderato; IV. Lento; V. Allegro; VI. The Peterborough, Sloane & North Midland Lapidaries: Andante; VII. The Sloane & Peterborough Lapidaries.
This work was composed in honour of Nadia Boulanger in her 92nd year and for the Da Capo Players. The gems featured are jade, aquamarine, ruby, topaz, diamond, sapphire and emerald. They are richly celebrated in both the words and the music.
Hire from Carl Fischer, NY

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Variations of 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. 1979
Tenor or soprano, Flute or Oboe or Violin, & Piano. 8 mins
The poem by Wallace Stevens takes an enigmatic look at its topic, and has the concentration of a haiku. The voice and treble instrument alternate and combine in a beautiful dialogue, not surprisingly with bird-like motifs in the music, in a single, slowish movement.
Carl Fischer, NY


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