Lili Boulanger’s life ended tragically on March 15, 1918 – 93 years ago today. The younger sister of Nadia Boulanger, Lili was a child prodigy and accomplished a great deal in her short 24 years. Born and raised in Paris to a musical family, she repotedly tagged along with her older sister to music classes even at the age of five. She later studied with Gabriel Fauré Her talents were fostered from a young age, though she was always sickly.
Lili’s greatest achievement in her short lifetime was being the first woman to win the Prix de Rome. The winning composition was Faust et Hélène, cantata for mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and orchestra. Though Lili was only able to complete a handful of compositions, her ability and craft as a composer are clear in her writing and remind the listener of the true loss of her early death. Recordings of her works are available, including a performance by the Women’s Philharmonic available in the shop.
Nadia promoted the works of her younger sister throughout her lifetime, and there is quite a lot of joint scholarship being done on the Boulanger sisters. More information can be found at the Centre International Nadia Et Lili Boulanger.
Lili’s last completed composition was Pie Jesu which she dictated to Nadia from her bed. Below is a recording of the work as conducted by Nadia in 1949: