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Sounds of the celebrated Boulanger sisters

04 April, 2019 — By Michael White

Lili, left, and Nadia Boulanger

Every year the BBC organises what it calls a Total Immersion experience at the Barbican, designed (as it says on the tin) to immerse listeners in the music of a particular composer. But this time round, it’s more than that – because the spotlight is on two sisters who are arguably the most celebrated siblings in the modern history of music: Lili and Nadia Boulanger.

Daughters of a Russian princess who settled in France, they were at the heart of Parisian cultural life in the first years of the 20th century. Lili flourished as a composer, though only briefly because she died at 24. Nadia lived on to an extreme old age and became the most famous of all music teachers.

People flocked to her, especially Americans like Aaron Copland, Philip Glass and (strangely) Quincy Jones. Other pupils included Lennox Berkeley and Michel Legrand: a catholic range of personalities. And they all testify to her mesmerising if formidable charisma – which will be thoroughly examined in the course of this Immersion day.

Starting at 1pm with songs and chamber music in the Guildhall School’s Milton Court, it culminates at 7.30pm with large-scale choral and orchestral works played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.


• Saturday April 6, Barbican Centre: Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS, 020 7638 8891, www.barbican.org.uk, tickets from £12

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