Saturday, July 6
It was on this day in 1913 that the French Academy of Fine Arts—for the first time in its history—presented its highest award, the Prix de Rome, to a woman. The honor was awarded to Lili Boulanger, who was just 19 years old at the time. She was born in Paris in 1893, the younger sister of Nadia Boulanger, who would become the most famous teacher of composition in the 20th century, numbering an amazing array of famous American composers among her students, ranging from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass.
Nadia’s sister Lili, however, suffered from poor health. Her tragically short career was interrupted by World War I, when she volunteered to nurse wounded soldiers. She died before the great conflict was over, on March 15th, 1918, at the age of 24.
Nearer to our own time, another woman, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, made history when she became the first woman composer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music. That was in 1983, and the piece was her Symphony No. 1. Born in Miami, Florida, in 1939, Zwilich studied composition with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at Juilliard, and accomplished another “first” by becoming the first woman to earn the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition at the famous school. Her Third Symphony was commissioned in 1992 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic.
Music Played in Today's Program
Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) Hymne au Soleil New London Chamber Choir; James Wood, cond. Hyperion 66726
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939) Symphony No. 3 Louisville Orchestra; James Sedares, cond. Koch International 7278
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