August 5, Birthday of Betsy Jolas (b. 1928)

Born in Paris between WWI and WWII, Betsy Jolas grew up in an enviable milieu. Her mother was a well-known translator and her father founded the literary magazine, “transition,” which published James Joyce’ Finnegan’s Wake as a “Work in Progress.” Her studies at the Paris Conservatory were interrupted by WWII and she and her family decamped to the US, where she completed her studies at Bennington. After the War, in 1946, her family returned to Paris, where Jolas continued her studies at the conservatoire with Darius Milhaud, Simone Plé-Caussade and Olivier Messiaen. She replaced Olivier Messiaen at the conservatory and has been on the faculty there since 1975. She has won many prizes and is both a Chevalier in the French Légion d’Honneurand and is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Points d’aube

String Quartet No. 3

D’un opéra de voyage (1967)

Quatuor II for soprano, violin, viola & cello


POINTS D`OR concerto for saxophone(s) & 15 instruments

January 20, birthday of Yvonne Loriod (1924 – 2010)

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I may not post.  On with today’s composer.

Yvonne Loriod was the second wife of composer Olivier Messiaen and herself  a composer, teacher and pianist.  As a student at the Paris Conservatory, her composition teacher was Messiaen.  At the age of 25, she was appointed professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris Her greatest fame and acclaim came as a concert pianist and she championed not only her professor’s compositions, but she also premiered pieces by other famous difficult works by composers like Bartok Piano Concerto number 2. After Messiaen’s wife died, Loriod married him, and in their later years continued to teach and mentor performers of Olivier’s works.

I can’t find any of her compositions online, but there are plenty of her performing Olivier’s and other’s works.

Messiaen: “Noel”
Debussy’s Etudes

Various Piano Works by Mozart
Messiaen:Le Moqueur polyglotte (part 1)

Iannis Xenakis: Rebonds 2

This is day 24 of the A-toZ Challenge in which I attempt to blog every day (excepting Sundays) during the month of April. During this month, I am curating a collection of “classical” music pieces, which are lesser known or by lesser known composers (to me at least).  Today’s composer is Iannis Xenakis (1922 – 2001).

Xenakis was a French-Greek polymath, who studied architecture under Le Corbusier and music under Messiaen.   Actually, how he found Messiaen is interesting.  He tried studying under Nadia Boulanger who rejected him, Arthur Honegger, who did the same, Darius Milhaud, who must have been puzzled with him. Poor dears, they tried to teach him harmony. Frustrated, a friend of Boulanger’s recommended him to Messiaen, who later said this of Xenakis.

“I understood straight away that he was not someone like the others. […] He is of superior intelligence. […] I did something horrible which I should do with no other student, for I think one should study harmony and counterpoint. But this was a man so much out of the ordinary that I said… No, you are almost thirty, you have the good fortune of being Greek, of being an architect and having studied special mathematics. Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music.”

So that is what he did. Back in the 1970s, because he was hip and I think he was teaching at my university at the time, I bought one of his albums, of which I remember absolutely nothing. So, today, it’s like listening to him for the first time, and I find this piece, one of his more accessible.

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