Germaine Tailleferre

Germaine Tailleferre (April 19, 1892 - November 7, 1983) was a French composer and the only female member of the famous Group Les Six.


Born Marcelle Taillefesse at Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Val-de-Marne, France, as a young woman she changed her last name to "Tailleferre" to spite her father who had refused to support her musical studies. She studied piano with her mother at home, composing short works of her own and then began studying at the Conservatory in Paris where she met Louis Durey, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger. At the Paris Conservatory she won first prize in several categories and wrote the 18 short works in the Petit livre de harpe de Madame Tardieu for Caroline Tardieu, the Conservatory’s Assistant Professor of Harp.

With her new friends, she soon was associating with the artistic crowd in Montmartre and Montparnasse including the sculptor Emmanuel Centore who would eventually marry her sister Jeanne. It was in the Montparnasse atelier of one of her painter friends where the initial idea for Les Six began. The publication of Jean Cocteau's manifest Le Coq et l'Arlequin resulted in Henri Collet's media articles that led to instant fame for the group. She was the only female member of the Groupe des Six.

The group published an album of piano pieces together (the famous "Album des Six"). Five of the members also collaborated together on the music for Cocteau's work "Les Mariés de La Tour Eiffel". Cocteau had originally proposed the project to Auric, but as Auric did not finish rapidly enough to fit into the rehearsal schedule, he then divided the work up among the other members of the Les Six. Durey, who was not in Paris at the time, did not participate. It is not correct to say that this marked "the end of the Group des Six", as Durey was present for every concert and other manifestation that marked the anniversaries of the founding of the Group. Les Six did not ever cease to exist, they simply took their own individual paths that they had announced from the beginning. The legacy of Les Six is present even today in their surviving children, spouses and associates.

In 1923, Tailleferre began to spend a great deal of time with Maurice Ravel at his home in Monfort-L'Amaury. Ravel encouraged her to enter the Prix de Rome Competition. In 1925, she married Ralph Barton, an American caricaturist, and moved to Manhattan, New York. She remained in the United States until 1927 when she and her husband returned to France. They divorced shortly thereafter.

Tailleferre wrote many of her most important works during the 1920s, including her 1st Piano Concerto, The Harp Concertino, the Ballets "Le Marchand d'Oiseaux" (the most frequently performed ballet in the repertoire of the Ballets Suédois during the 1920s) and "La Nouvelle Cythère" which was commissioned by Diaghilev for the ill-fated 1929 season of the famous Ballets Russes, and "Sous le Ramparts d'Athènes" in Collaboration with Paul Claudel, as well as several pioneering film scores, including "B'anda" in which she used African themes.

The 1930s was even more fruitful, with the Concerto for Two Pianos, Choeurs, Saxophones and Orchestra, the Violin Concerto, The Operas "Zoulaïna" and "Le Marin de Bolivar",and her masterwork, "La Cantate de Narcisse" in collaboration with Paul Valéry. Her work in film music included "Le Petit Chose" by Maurice Cloche and a series of documentaries.

At the outbreak of World War II, she was forced to leave the majority of her scores at her home in Grasse, with the exception of her recently completed Three Etudes for Piano and Orchestra. Escaping across Spain to Portugal, she found passage on a boat that brought her to America where she lived the war years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After the war, in 1946, she returned to her home in France where she composed orchestral and chamber music, plus numerous other works including the ballets "Paris-Magie" (with Lise Delarme) and "Parisiana" (for the Royal Ballet of Copenhaugen), The Operas "Il était un Petit Navire" (with Henri Jeanson), "Dolores", "La Petite Sirène" (with Philip Soupault, based on Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Mermaid") and "Le Maître" (to a libretto by Ionesco), The Musical Comedy "Parfums", The Concerto des Vaines Paroles, for Baritone Voice, Piano and Orchestra, the Concerto for Soprano and Orchestra, the Concertino for Flute, Piano and Orchestra, the Second Piano Concerto, the Concerto for Two Guitars and Orchestra, her Second Sonata for Violin and Piano, her Sonata for Harp as well as an impressive number of film and television scores. The majority of this music was not published until after her death.

In 1976, she accepted the post of accompanist for a children's music and movement class at the École alsacienne, a private school in Paris. During the last period of her life, she concentrated mainly on smaller forms, due to increasing problems with arthritis in her hands. She nevertheless produced the Sonate Champêtre for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano, The Sonata for Two Pianos, Choral and Variations for Two Pianos or Orchestra, a series of children's songs (on texts by Jean Tardieu) and pieces for young pianists. Her last major work was the Concerto de la Fidelité pour Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, which was premièred at the Paris Opera the year before her death.

Germaine Tailleferre continued to compose right up until a few weeks before her death, on November 7, 1983 in Paris. She is buried in Quincy-Voisins, Seine-et-Marne, France.

Chronological Works List

This list of works includes serious concert works, film and television score and popular works. It does not include arrangements, harmonisations or transcriptions. In the interests of clarity, some works which are essentially the same works with different titles (the Concerto for Soprano and Orchestra and the Concerto de la Fidelité, for example) have been omitted.

There is a great deal of discussion amongst musicologists as to the authenticity of the various catalogs already published in the handful of biographical works devoted to Germaine Tailleferre, one of which even includes a category of "titles which were not given by the composer. Many works included in those catalogs are missing from this list because they cannot be verified by either published scores or primary manuscript sources. In order to establish this catalog, we used three types of sources:

1. Works which are easily verifiable through either published scores, recordings, copies of film and television presentations kept in national archives and works for which concert programmes have been kept at libraries or archives.

2. The records kept at the SACEM (the French performing rights association), using both the old paper catalog and the new computerized catalog.

3. Robert Orledge's catalog of manuscript sources in Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) : A Centenary Appraisal" Muziek & Wetenschap 2 (Summer 1992) which he examined in Paris during September, 1991, which include complete scientific descriptions of the manuscript objects.

  • 1909 Impromptu for Piano
  • 1910 Premières Prouesses for Piano 4 hands
  • 1910 Morceau de Lecture for Harp
  • 1912 Fantasie sur thème de G. Cassade Piano Quintette
  • 1913 Berceuse for Violin/Piano
  • 1913 Romance for Piano
  • 1913-1917 Le Petit Livre de Harpe de Mme Tardieu for Harp
  • 1917 Jeux de Plein Air for 2 pianos
  • ? ? Jeux de Plein Air for orchestra
  • 1917-1919 String Quartet
  • 1917 Calme et Sans Lenteur for Piano Trio
  • 1918 Image for fl/cl/clt/pno/str 4tr
  • 1918 Image for Piano 4 hands
  • 1919 Pastorale for Piano
  • 1920 Morceau Symphonique for Piano/Orchestra
  • 1920 Très Vite for Piano
  • 1920 Hommage à Debussy for Piano
  • 1920 Ballade for Piano and Orchestra
  • 1920 Fandango for 2 Pianos
  • 1921 Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel : Quadrille/Valse des Dépeches for Orchestra
  • 1921 Première Sonate for Violin and Piano
  • 1923 Le Marchand d'Oiseaux Ballet for Orchestra
  • 1923 Concerto no. 1 for Piano and Orchestra
  • 1924 Adagio for Violin and Piano
  • 1925 Berceuse du Petit Elephant for Solo Voice/Chorus/F Horns
  • 1925 Mon Cousin de Cayenne, incidental music for Ensemble
  • 1925 Ban'da for Chorus and Orchestra
  • 1927 Concertino for Harp and Orchestra
  • 1927 Sous Le Rempart d'Athènes, incidental music for Orchestra
  • 1928 Deux Valses for Two Pianos
  • 1928 Pastorale en Lab for Piano
  • 1928 Sicilienne for Piano
  • 1928 Nocturno-Fox for two Baritone Voices and Ensemble
  • 1929 La Nouvelle Cythère for Two Pianos or Orchestra
  • 1929 Six Chansons Françaises for Voice and Piano
  • 1929 Pastorale en Ut for Piano
  • 1929 Pastorale Inca for Piano
  • 1929 Vocalise-étude for High Voice and Piano
  • 1930 Fleurs de France for Piano or String Orchestra
  • 1931 Zoulaïna Opera Comique (French text by Charles Hirsch)
  • 1932 Ouverture for Orchestra
  • 1934 Largo for Violin and Piano
  • 1934 La Chasse à L'Enfant for Voice and Piano (French text by Jacques Prévert)
  • 1934 Le Chanson de L'Elephant for Voice and Piano
  • 1934 Deux Poèmes de Lord Byron for High Voice and Piano (English text by Lord Byron)
  • 1934 Concerto for Two Pianos, Chorus, Saxophones and Orchestra
  • 1935 Divertissement dans le style Louis Quinze, incidental music for orchestra, including baroque instruments
  • 1935 Les Souliers, film music
  • 1935 Chanson de Firmin Voice and Piano, French text by Henri Jeanson
  • 1936 Cadenzas for Mozart’s Concerto no 22 in Eb for Piano
  • 1936 Cadenzas for Haydn’s Concerto no 15 for Piano
  • 1937 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • 1937 Au Pavillion D'Alsace for Piano
  • 1937 Provincia, Film score
  • 1937 Symphonie Grapique, Film score
  • 1937 Sur Les Routes d'Acier, Film score
  • 1937 Terre d'effort de de liberté Film score
  • 1937 Ces Dames aux Chapeaux verts Film score
  • 1938 Cantate de Narcisse for Baritone Martin, Soprano, SSAA Chorus, strings and tympani
  • 1938 Le Petit Chose Film score
  • 1939 Prelude et Fugue for Organ, with Trumpet and Trombone, ad lib.
  • 1940 Bretagne, Film score
  • 1941 Les Deux Timides, Film Score
  • 1942 Trois Etudes for Piano and Orchestra
  • 1942 Pastorale for Violin and Piano
  • 1943 Deux Danses du Marin de Bolivar for Piano
  • 1946 Les Confidences d'un microphone for Piano, Radio Music
  • 1946 Intermezzo for Two Pianos
  • 1946 Intermezzo for Flute and Piano
  • 1946 Coïncidences, film score
  • 1948 Paris-Magie Ballet for Orchestra or Two pianos
  • 1949 Quadrille, Ballet for orchestra
  • 1949 Suite pour Orchestre « Payssages de France » for Orchestra
  • 1949 Paris Sentimentale for voice and Piano (French text by Marthe Lacloche)
  • 1950 Les Marchés du Sud, film music
  • 1951 2ème Sonate for Violin and Piano
  • 1951 Parfums, musical comedy
  • 1951 Il Etait un Petit Navire, Opéra comique (French libretto by Henri Jeanson)
  • 1951 Suite "Il Etait un Petit Navire" for two pianos
  • 1951-54 La Bohème Eternale theatre music
  • 1951(?) Chant Chinois for Piano
  • 1951 Concerto no. 2 for Piano and Orchestra
  • 1952 Sarabande de La Guirlande de Campra for Orchestra
  • 1952 Seule dans la Forêt for Piano
  • 1952 Dans La Clairière for Piano
  • 1952 Concertino for Flute, Piano and String Orchestra
  • 1952 Sicilienne for Flute and Two Pianos
  • 1952 Le Roi de la Creation, film music
  • 1952 Valse pour le Funambule for Piano
  • 1952 Caroline au pays natal, film score
  • 1952 Caroline au Palais, film score
  • 1952 Conférence des Animaux, Radio Music
  • 1953 Caroline fait du cinéma, film score
  • 1953 Cher Vieux Paris, film score
  • 1953 Caroline du Sud, Film score
  • 1953 Gavarni et son temps, Television score
  • 1953 Parisiana, Ballet for Orchestra
  • 1953 Sonata for Harp
  • 1953? Entre Deux Guerres, film score
  • 1954 L'Aigle des Rues, suite for Piano
  • 1954 Fugue for Orchestra
  • 1954 Charlie Valse for Piano
  • 1954 Deux Pieces for Piano
  • 1955 Une Rouille à l'Arsenic, for Voice and Piano (French texts by Denise Centore)
  • 1955 La Rue Chagrin for Voice and Piano
  • 1955 Du Style Galant au Style Mechant 4 Opéras de poche
    • Le Bel Ambitieux, Chamber opera
    • La Fille d'Opéra, Chamber Opera
    • Monsieur Petitpois Achete un Château, Chamber Opera
    • La Pauvre Eugénie , Chamber Opera
  • 1955 Ici la voix, radio music for Orchestra
  • 1955 C'est facile à dire for voice and Piano (French Text)
  • 1955 Dejeuner sur L'Herbe for voice and Piano (French Text by Claude Marcy)
  • 1955 L'Enfant for voice and Piano (French Text by Claude Marcy)
  • 1955 Il avait une Barbe Noir for voice and Piano (French Text by Claude Marcy)
  • 1956 Concerto des Vaines Paroles for Baritone, Piano and Orchestra (French text by Jean Tardieu)
  • 1956 L'Homme Notre Ami, Film Music
  • 1956 Le Travail fait le Patron, Film
  • 1957 Les Plus Beau Jours, Film Music
  • 1957 Histoires secrète, radio score
  • 1957 Petite Suite for Orchestra
  • 1957 La Petite Sirène , Opera (French text by Philippe Soupault)
  • 1957 Sonate for Solo Clarinet
  • 1957 Adalbert, radio Score
  • 1957 Toccata for Two Pianos
  • 1957 Partita for Piano
  • 1957 Tante Chinoise et les Autres, film score for solo flute
  • 1959 Mémoires d'une Bergère, Radio Score
  • 1959 Le Maître, chamber opera (French text by Eugène Ionesco)
  • 1959 Pancarte pour une porte d'entrée, Voice and Piano (French texts by Robert Pinget)
  • 1960 Temps de Pose, radio score
  • 1960 Les Requins sur nos Cotes, film music
  • 1960 La Rentrée des Foins, television score
  • 1961 Les Grandes personnes (English title - Time out for Love/The Adults), film music
  • 1962 Au Paradis avec les Anes, radio score (French text by Francis Jammes)
  • 1962 Partita, for Oboe, clarinet, Bassoon and Strings
  • 1963 L'Adieu du Cavalier, in memoriam Francis Poulenc for voice and Piano (French text by Guillaume Apollinaire)
  • 1964 Sans Merveille, television score
  • 1964? Concerto for Two guitars and Orchestra
  • 1964 Hommage à Rameau for Two pianos and four percussion
  • 1964 Evariste Gallois ou l'Eloge des Mathématiques, television score
  • 1964 Sonata alla Scarlatti for Harp
  • 1966 Anatole, television score
  • 1969 Entonnement for ob-hrp pf str
  • 1969 Jacasseries for fl, ob, cl cel, hp, str
  • 1969 Amertume for fl, ob,cl, hn, hp, str
  • 1969 Angoise for chamber orchestra
  • 1970 Impressionnisme for Flute, Two Pianos and Double bass, film score
  • 1972 Forlane for flute and piano
  • 1972 Barbizon for piano
  • 1972 Sonate Champêtre for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano
  • 1973 Rondo for Oboe and Piano
  • 1973 Arabesque for Clarinet/Piano
  • 1973 Choral for Trumpet and Piano
  • 1973 Sonatine for Violin and Piano
  • 1973 Gaillarde for Trumpet and Piano
  • 1974 Sonate for Two Pianos
  • 1974-75 Sonate for Piano 4 hands
  • 1974-75 Symphonietta for Trumpet, Tympani and Strings
  • 1975-1981 Enfantines for Piano
  • 1975 Singeries for Piano
  • 1975 Escarpolète for Piano
  • 1975 Menuet for Oboe (Clarinet or Saxophone) and Piano
  • 1975 Allegretto for Three Clarinets (three trumpets or Three Saxophones) and Piano
  • 1975 Piement des Pyrenées Françaises Film music
  • 1975-78 Trois Sonatines for Piano
  • 1976 Marche for Concert Band (orch. Dondeyne)
  • 1976 Choral et Fugue for Concert Band (orch. Wehage)
  • 1976-77 Sérénade en La mineur for four winds and Piano or Harpsichord
  • 1977 Nocturne for Organ
  • 1977 Aube for Soprano solo/SATB chorus
  • 1977 Trois Chansons de Jean Tardieu for voice and piano (French text by Jean Tardieu)
  • 1977 Un Bateau en Chocolat for voice and Piano (French text by Jean Tardieu) voix/pno
  • 1977 Suite Divertimento for Piano or concert Band
  • 1978 Trio for Violin, Violoncello and Piano
  • 1979 Choral et Variations for Two Pianos or Orchestra
  • 1979 Choral et Deux Variations for Woodwind or Brass Quintet
  • 1979 Menuet en Fa for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano
  • 1979 Sarabande for Two Instruments or Piano
  • 1980 Suite Burlesque for Piano 4 hands
  • 1981 Concerto de la Fidelité for high voice and Orchestra
  • 1982 20 lécons de Solfege, voice and Piano
  • ???? Guitare for Solo Guitar

Selected bibliography

  • Janelle Gelfand "Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) Piano and Chamber works", Doctoral Dissertation, 1999 University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music
  • Laura Mitgang "Germaine Tailleferre : Before, During and After Les Six" in The Musical Woman, Vol. 11 Judith Lang Zaimont, editor (Greenwood Press 1987)
  • Caroline Potter/Robert Orledge : Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) : A Centenary Appraisal" Muziek & Wetenshap 2 (Summer 1992) pp. 109-130
  • Robert Shapiro "Germaine Tailleferre : a bio-Bibliography" (Greenwood Press 1994)


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