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Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Vieille Prière Bouddhique

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.

Vieille Prière Bouddhique, written for orchestra, choir, and tenor soloist, was one of Boulanger's last works. Drafted in 1914 and finished in 1917, the text of this work is from a Buddhist daily prayer for the universe, calling all people to attain peace and joy. Like much of her writing, this work is rich and luscious, and shows what an incredibly mature composer she was. Several melodies throughout are centered on the whole tone scale, giving it a sublimely hypnotic feel. The English translation of the French text is as follows:

May each thing that breathes,
Without enemies, without obstacles,
Overcoming pain and attaining happiness,
Be able to move freely,
Each in the way destined for him.

May all creatures everywhere,
All the spirits and all who have been born,
Without enemies, without obstacles,
Overcoming pain and attaining happiness,
Be able to move freely,
Each in the way destined for him.

May all women,
May all men,
Aryans and non-Aryans,
All gods and all humans and all who have died,
Without enemies, without obstacles,
Overcoming pain and attaining happiness,
Be able to move freely,
Each in the way destined for him.

In the East and in the West,
In the North and in the South,
May all the beings that exist,
Without enemies, without obstacles,
Overcoming pain and attaining happiness,
Be able to move freely, Each in the way destined for him.

Here's a recording of this amazing work for you to enjoy!

Lamoureux Orchestra

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