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Nadia Boulanger

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Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), French composer, pedagogue, conductor, pianist, and organist. She was a student of Gabriel Fauré among others, and with her performances she popularized his Requiem. She became known as a charismatic pedagogue, teaching hundreds of composers from all over the world in academies in Paris and at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. Among her students were several dozen Polish composers of a number of generations.

After completing his studies in Warsaw, Witold Lutosławski hoped to continue his compositional education with Nadia Boulanger, but his service in the army, and the subsequent military mobilization before the outbreak of the war prevented the realization of this plan.

The composer reminisces in conversation with Zofia Owińska: "I was never a student of hers, but I had the happy chance to meet her in 1946, when I came to Paris and regularly attended the so-called ‘Wednesdays', which were days on which she received guests. On this occasion I remained in Paris for three months [...]. During the visits there grew a true friendship between Nadia Boulanger and me. She showed me much warmth and interest as a person. I have several letters from her, and they are specially valuable to me. She came to all performances of my compositions in Paris and until the end of her life she maintained a very sincere interest for me."

On the occasion of Nadia Boulanger's seventieth birthday, Witold Lutosławski dedicated four of his Five Songs for soprano and piano to her, and he was one of the guests at the birthday celebration which took place at the Alpine property of Igor Markiewicz. The main musical attraction of the evening was the performance of a humorous, functional cantata written by Jean Françaix.

kt / trans. mk