Lili Boulanger’s Catholic Modernism?

11 12 2018

I have recently delved into the music of Lili Boulanger, a promising composer struck down in her mid-20’s in 1918. She is also the sister of Nadia Boulanger, the famous pedagogue of the 20th century who taught composition to some of the greatest composers in recent memory. Both she and her sister were believing Catholics, though interestingly enough, Lili composed vernacular settings of the Psalms as well as setting sacred texts from other religions. 

Being a contemporary of Debussy and Ravel, she composed very much in the modern style. One has to wonder if she was affected by the anti-modernist backlash of the early 20th century in the Catholic Church. Perhaps France was secular enough for her not to notice, but a Catholic composing in the vernacular or setting a “pagan” text must have raised some eyebrows. Or maybe not.


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