Tracking Tailleferre

Those of you who have spoken with me over the past year or so know that the 20th-century French composer Germaine Tailleferre has become a research obsession of mine. Last fall, I wrote a paper on the pernicious effects of American and French critics on her early reception. I posited that these writers influenced music history textbooks’ assessments of her music.

Since I am currently in Paris — where Tailleferre spent most of her career — I have the wonderful opportunity to visit anywhere related to her life. Today, a tiny alleyway in the 19th arrondissement bearing her name.

Approaching the sign, I was initially disheartened by the young communists of France sticker covering her. I jumped a few times to try to snatch it down, but no luck. Somewhat fittingly, Tailleferre was a member of the Communist Party. However, her participation was brief and nominal.

I was amazed by the high quality of street art on the block. See below this impressive “Odyssey of the 21st Century.” (I wonder what Tailleferre would have thought of these displays.)


After the quick walk through the street  — it is really short, probably only 100 meters or so — I entered the Cité de la Musique. This complex houses the Conservatoire de Paris, the Musée de la musique, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Appropriately, there’s a large music store across from the conservatory. Sidestepping some visitors, I sneaked inside. Surveying the shop, I found myself vis-à-vis with shelves upon shelves of scores. I felt at home.

Since the theme of the day was Tailleferre, I began to search for her. Most of the time, there was a disappointing gulf between “Stravinsky” and “Tchaikovsky.” However, I did have some success. In the melody section, I found vocal reductions for some of her opéras bouffes. Later on, I discovered the orchestra parts in the adjacent room. These finds are most likely impossible in America.


Later this month, I am going to walk through the artistic districts in which Tailleferre lived and worked. Tailleferre also has one relative who lives in Paris, her granddaughter Elvie de Rudder, who I am endeavoring to get in contact with.