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Germaine Tailleferre

About this Artist

Born: 19 April 1892, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, France

Died: 7 November 1983, Paris, France

A child prodigy, Germaine Tailleferre began playing the piano at age two, was composing by age eight, and was strong-willed enough to begin lessons at the Paris Conservatoire at age 12, against her father’s wishes. She eventually won many of the prizes offered there—“How ravishing our Germaine was in 1917, with her school girl’s satchel full of all the Conservatoire’s first prizes!” Francis Poulenc later recalled—and formed many important musical friendships. Her music caught the ear of Erik Satie, who dubbed her his “musical daughter” and brought her into Les Six, a short-lived but highly influential Parisian group that developed under the mentorship of Satie and Jean Cocteau in the early 1920s. She also worked closely with Maurice Ravel in the ’20s, going against the grain of Satie’s antipathy for Ravel.

Having found a distinctive voice, Tailleferre maintained it with extraordinary productivity and consistency through a long and eventful life (a life that included two unhappy marriages, an escape from France following the German occupation—she lived in Pennsylvania from 1942 to 1946—and joining the Communist Party after the 1968 riots in Paris to show solidarity with the students). Tailleferre wrote a dozen operas, ballets, and incidental music, and many film and television scores. She composed no symphonies but did write a number of successful and unusual concertos, as well as numerous songs and piano pieces, plus the large body of chamber music that has been her most frequently performed legacy.