Nadia Boulanger: Mademoiselle

COMPOSERS: Nadia Boulanger: Mademoiselle
LABELS: Ideale Audience International
ALBUM TITLE: Nadia Boulanger: Mademoiselle
WORKS: A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
PERFORMER: Nadia Boulanger
This compelling film on the extraordinary figure of Nadia Boulanger was Bruno Monsaingeon’s first documentary. Rather than a biographical portrait, he wanted ‘viewers to sense for themselves the force and flavour’ of this woman who was formidable, in both the English and French. It captures Boulanger as she approached ninety, a living legend, and showing few signs of age. Many sequences feature her Wednesday classes, the work in question generally being played at the piano, her hand darting across to grab the arm of whichever pianist in a vice-like grip when something needed saying.The admiration and adoration mixed with mild terror which she inspired in her disciples is fleshed-out by Bernstein and Markevitch (the latter’s account of Mozart’s Prague Symphony makes a charming bonus). The film reveals a mind that was still needle-sharp and the selflessness of the great pedagogue. Moreover, ex cathedra statements such as ‘there are conditions without which masterpieces cannot be achieved, but what defines a masterpiece cannot be pinned down’ are tempered by an often-overlooked humility. Although filled-in a little by the booklet, the lack not just of biography, but also context is frustrating, but that does not prevent this being a thoroughly absorbing film.

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