Composers Datebook®

The birth of "Les Six"

Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) — Violin Sonata No. 1 (Renate Eggebrecht, violin; Angela Gassenhuber, piano) Troubadisc 1406


Composer's Datebook - January 16, 2022

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January 16, 2022

Synopsis

Today marks the anniversary of the creation of a famous classical music nickname, “Les Six” – French for “The Six.” That’s what Parisian music critic Henri Collet dubbed six composers in a magazine article on this day in 1920.

Three of the composers Collet named are performed more often these days – Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger and Francis Poulenc – while the other three composers – George Auric, Louis Durey, and the only woman in the group, Germaine Tailleferre – are heard less frequently.

Though Tailleferre is counted among the neglected half of Les Six, her music has been having something of a revival lately, perhaps it’s a belated recognition that much of her work remains fresh and appealing. This music is from her Violin Sonata No. 1, composed in 1921 and dedicated to the great French violinist Jacques Thibaud.

Born near Paris in 1892, Tailleferre was a prodigy with an astounding memory. Erik Satie proclaimed her his “musical daughter,” and she was also close friends with Maurice Ravel. Two unhappy marriages and resulting financial insecurity inhibited Tailleferre’s talent in later years, and dimmed her fame, but she continued to compose and teach until her death at age 91, in 1983.

Music Played in Today's Program

Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) — Violin Sonata No. 1 (Renate Eggebrecht, violin; Angela Gassenhuber, piano) Troubadisc 1406

On This Day

Births

  • 1728 - Italian opera composer Niccoló Piccinni, in Bari;

  • 1905 - Spanish composer Ernesto Halffter, in Madrid;

  • 1934 - American composer Richard Wernick, in Boston, Massachusetts;

  • 1943 - English composer Gavin Bryars, in Goole, Yorkshire;

  • 1943 - English composer Brian Ferneyhough, in Coventry;

Deaths

  • 1886 - Italian opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli, age 51, in Milan;

  • 1891 - French ballet composer Leo Delibes, age 54, in Paris;

  • 1957 - Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, age 89, in New York;

  • 1969 - Russian-born American composer and songwriter Vernon Duke (Vladimir Dukelsky), age 65, in Santa Monica, Calif,;

Premieres

  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 155 ("Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange") performed on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1739 - Handel: oratorio, "Saul," in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: Jan. 27);

  • 1745 - Handel: musical drama "Hercules" (Julian date: Jan. 5);

  • 1800 - Cherubini: opera "Les deux journées," in Paris at the Théatre Feydeau;

  • 1869 - Borodin: Symphony No. 1, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Jan. 4);

  • 1876 - Tchaikovsky: "Serenade mélancolique,"in Moscow (Gregorian date: Jan. 28);

  • 1905 - d'Albert: opera "Tiefland" (The Lowlands) (2nd version), in Magdeburg at the Stadttheater;

  • 1916 - Prokofiev: "Scythian" Suite (Gregorian date: Jan. 29);

  • 1933 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 11, in Moscow;

  • 1936 - Frank Bridge: "Ovation (Concerto elegiaco)" for Cello and Orchestra, in London, by the BBC Symphony conducted by the composer, with Florence Hooton the soloist;

  • 1942 - Britten: "Diversions on a Theme" for Piano Left Hand, by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;

  • 1969 - Babbitt: "Relata II," by the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein conducting;

  • 1983 - Daniel Asia: "Why (?) Jacob" for piano, by Sanford Margolis;

  • 1997 - Esa-Pekka Salonen: "L.A. Variations" for orchestra, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with the composer conducting.