Happy 125th Birthday, Lili Boulanger!

In celebration of Lili Boulanger’s 125th birthday on August 21st we are sharing an arrangement of her work Cortège held in the Merritt Room of the Isham Memorial Library. Lili wrote this piece for piano while at the Villa Medici in Rome as the first female winner of the Prix de Rome in June of 1914. It was published for violin or flute and piano in 1919 by Ricordi with a dedication to violinist Yvonne Astruc. The manuscript is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris (BN Ms.19439 and Ms.19440), along with a transcription in Nadia’s Boulanger’s hand.

The arrangement was by Nadia, her sister, for solo violin and 18 other musicians: flute, harp, celesta, triangle, violin I (5), violin II (3), viola (2), cello (2), contrabass (2).

Manuscript, page one of Cortege.

Merritt Mus 631.856.200

While some of the writing was determined to be by Nadia Boulanger, a portion was also completed by a copyist. Notice the variations in handwriting on these instrumental parts.

Example of handwriting, 1st violin part.

Merritt Mus 631.856.200

Example of handwriting, contrabass part.

Merritt Mus 631.856.200

Example of handwriting, 2nd violin part.

Merritt Mus 631.856.200

While the date is unknown, visit our catalog record for more information.

Additional information about Cortège and Lili and Nadia’s works and relationship can be found in:

Potter, Caroline. Nadia and Lili Boulanger. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

 

Martha Graham slept here

In May 1947, Harvard’s Department of Music assembled a host of composers, scholars, writers and performers for a three-day symposium on Music and Criticism. Eight hundred attendees listened to opening remarks from E.M. Forster, who began, “Music is the deepest of the arts and deep beneath the arts.” They also heard talks by Roger Sessions, Virgil Thomson and Paul Henry Lang. Olga Samaroff reflected on her career as a pianist, newspaper writer and television broadcaster, touching on themes of music literacy for laypeople, the ethics of music criticism and the future of music in America.

Several compositions were commissioned for the event and thus received their world premières in Cambridge. Bohuslav Martinů was commissioned to write his sixth string quartet for the symposium, correspondence surrounding which commission features prominently in the introduction to the critical edition of Martinů’s string quartets which was published last year by Bärenreiter Praha

A letter from the composer Bohuslav Martinů, expressing concerns with an edition of the score of his sixth string quartet. Date January 29, 1947 and signed B. Martinů.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

Harvard professor Walter Piston’s “Done. W.P.” in blue pencil is scattered throughout the collection, as he ticks off to-do list items. Piston also contributed a new string quartet.

The Collegiate Chorale, a vocal ensemble notable for being racially integrated from its inception in 1941, sang a commissioned work by Paul Hindemith, Apparebit Repentina Dies, and pieces by Gian Francesco Malipiero and Aaron Copland. And the Martha Graham Dance Company performed William Schuman’s Night Journey for the first time, and (not a première) Carlos Chávez’s Dark Meadow. In this letter, sent after the symposium to Harvard professor A. Tillman Merritt, Graham reflects poetically on the experience.

A letter from the American dancer Martha Graham, dated June 2nd, 1946. Ms. Graham is accepting an invitation to perform at the Harvard symposium on Music and Criticism the following spring.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

Flying in E.M. Forster doesn’t happen without a considerable amount of paperwork. The documents tracking the planning and execution of the symposium are now held at the Isham Memorial Library, 41 folders in all. There is correspondence with the participants in the symposium, the commissioned composers, performers, donors, piano-tuners and chair-loaners. There are press releases, journal and newspaper reviews, and schedules. There are many, many receipts. The conference papers were published in 1948 as Music and Criticism: A Symposium. An attendee’s account of the event as well as some institutional context are to be found in Elliot Forbes’s A History of Music at Harvard to 1972 (Department of Music, Harvard University: 1988), pages 103-110. But these papers tell us of the mechanics, of the logistics, and of the personalities. For instance, it seems Martha Graham and her company were happy enough to be boarded at local homes. Sadly, the names of their hosts do not appear to have been retained.

This collection of correspondence, clippings and ephemera, assembled under the title Records of the Symposium on Music Criticism, held May 1-3, 1947 at Harvard, is available for use on site in the Isham Memorial Library whenever that section of the Music Library is open, generally Monday to Friday, nine to five. Click on the title above, then View Onsite, to set up an appointment to come and see these materials in person. If you are, as E.M. Forster described his usual whereabouts, “in the other Cambridge” or otherwise unable to come visit in person, Isham staff will be pleased to work with you to provide digital surrogates. Click on the collection title, then View Onsite, and then Switch to Photoduplication. 

A last letter: this one from an organizer to Arnold Schoenberg, who also contributed a new work, his String Trio Op. 45, the first work he completed after his near-fatal heart attack of 1946.

A letter to the composer Arnold Schoenberg. Unsigned carbon copy from an organizer of the conference.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

 

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