Try to reel off the members of Les Six, and you might struggle to complete the set. The names of Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Auric and Durey were frequently heard alongside that of another composer. The music of Germaine Tailleferre – the only female member of the group – may be neglected today, but she was highly regarded during her lifetime, earning the praise of such luminaries as Erik Satie.
Tailleferre is by no means the only female musician who has been overshadowed by her contemporaries. Nadia Boulanger is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century Paris, but the early part of her career was eclipsed by the star of her younger sister, Lili. A prodigious talent, Lili Boulanger would be the first woman to win the prestigious Prix de Rome. Her career was to be meteoric, but short-lived: she died at the tender age of 24, struck down by Crohn’s disease.
The lives of the women are fascinating, and their music no less so. Both were distinctive and characterful voices, deserving of the esteem in which they were held during their lifetimes.