COMPOSERS: N Boulanger
ALBUM TITLE: N Boulanger
WORKS: Mademoiselle – Premiere Audience: unknown music of Nadia Boulanger. Songs, works for piano, cello and piano, and organ
PERFORMER: Nicole Cabell (soprano), Alek Shrader (tenor), Edwin Crossley-Mercer (baritone), Amit Peled (cello), François-Henri Houbart (organ), Lucy Mauro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3496
Lili was the talented composer out of the two Boulanger sisters. At least, that was the conviction of Nadia Boulanger, who stopped writing music a few years after the death of her younger sister. While Nadia became one of the great pedagogues, whose advice was sought by numerous figures including Stravinsky, her harsh judgment on her own music warrants challenging. Lili’s music may be more distinctive, but Nadia was a very long way from lacking compositional talent and there are numerous discoveries to be had on this wonderful two-disc set curated by pianist and scholar Lucy Mauro.
Songs dominate, half the 26 being first recordings, while several pieces each for piano, cello and organ flesh out the picture. The earlier songs have a glowing tranquility, while Boulanger’s final utterances from her thirties, are much more troubled. Nicole Cabelle is exquisite in her many contributions, her creamy soprano soaring in the sublime Prière, deftly supported by Mauro. Tenor Alek Shrader is another strong advocate, playful in the 1906 Chanson, yet fiercely impassioned in 1922 song of the same name, but neither baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer nor cellist Amit Peled are as convincing. The close, slightly resonant recording is a touch uncomfortable at times, and it may have been more effective to weave the instrumental items between the songs. Nonetheless, francophiles will enjoy investigating these charming works.