Germaine Tailleferre

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Germaine Tailleferre (19 April 1892 - 7 November 1983) was a French composer and the only female member of the famous composers' group Les Six.



Born Marcelle Taillefesse at Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Val-de-Marne, France, as a young woman she changed her last name to "Tailleferre" to spite her father who had refused to support her musical studies. She studied piano with her mother at home, composing short works of her own, after which she began studying at the Paris Conservatory where she met Louis Durey, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger. At the Paris Conservatory her skills were awarded with prizes in several categories. Most notably Tailleferre wrote 18 short works in the Petit livre de harpe de Madame Tardieu for Caroline Tardieu, the Conservatory’s Assistant Professor of Harp.

With her new friends, she soon was associating with the artistic crowd in the Paris districts of Montmartre and Montparnasse including the sculptor Emmanuel Centore who would eventually marry her sister Jeanne. It was in the Montparnasse atelier of one of her painter friends where the initial idea for Les Six began. The publication of Jean Cocteau's manifest Le coq et l'Arlequin resulted in Henri Collet's media articles that led to instant fame for the group, of which Tailleferre was the only female member.

In 1923, Tailleferre began to spend a great deal of time with Maurice Ravel at his home in Monfort-L'Amaury. Ravel encouraged her to enter the Prix de Rome Competition. In 1925, she married Ralph Barton, an American caricaturist, and moved to Manhattan, New York. She remained in the United States until 1927 when she and her husband returned to France. They divorced shortly thereafter.

Tailleferre wrote many of her most important works during the 1920s, including her 1st Piano Concerto, The Harp Concertino, the Ballets "Le marchand d'oiseaux" (the most frequently performed ballet in the repertoire of the Ballets Suédois during the 1920s) and "La nouvelle Cythère" which was commissioned by Diaghilev for the ill-fated 1929 season of the famous Ballets Russes, and "Sous le ramparts d'Athènes" in collaboration with Paul Claudel, as well as several pioneering film scores, including "B'anda" in which she used African themes.

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