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Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Hymne au Soleil

Marie-Juliette Olga "Lili" Boulanger (Aug. 21, 1893 - March 15, 1918) was a French composer, and  the younger sister of the famed composition teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger. Born in Paris, Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy; at the age of two, it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her musical education, and she would accompany her sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatory, studying music theory and organ. Her sister Nadia was one of her teachers, and later on studied with Paul Vidal, George Caussade, and Gabriel Faure, who was particularly impressed by her abilities. Lili would go on to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19; she was the first woman to ever win the composition prize. Tragically, she died at the young age of 24.

Much of Boulanger's output was choral, including Hymne au Soleil This work for mixed choir, solo alto, and piano is around five minutes, and is beautifully intense. The work starts out with the piano playing quarter notes in each measure, adding on to each chord, before the choir comes in with an ascending line that reaches a peak, with the text praising and adoring the sun. After a long 6/4 section, it goes in to 3/4, and then the solo alto sings briefly in the 4/4/ section. This work is highly impressionistic, and the way Boulanger writes the chorus' ascending line is akin to the rising of the sun. It's a stunningly intriguing work!

Here are some recordings of this wonderful work for you to enjoy!

Orpheus Vokalensemble
Philharmonia Chor Stuttgart

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