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Elsa Barraine

1910 - 1999

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Elsa Jacqueline Barraine (13 February 1910, in Paris – 20 March 1999, in Strasbourg) was a composer of French music in the time after the neoclassicist movement of Les Six, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Despite being considered “one of the outstanding French composers of the mid-20th century,” Barraine's music is seldom performed today. She won the Prix de Rome in 1929 for ‘La vierge guerrière’, a sacred trilogy named for Joan of Arc, and was the fourth woman ever to receive that prestigious award (after Lili Boulanger in 1913, Marguerite Canal in 1920, and Jeanne Leleu in 1923).

Born in Paris to Alfred Barraine, the principal cellist of the Orchestre de l’Opéra, and Mme. Barraine, Elsa Barraine began studying piano at a young age. She attended the Conservatoire de Paris and studied composition with Paul Dukas, whose impressive list of students includes Yvonne Desportes, Maurice Duruflé, Claude Arrieu, and Olivier Messiaen. Barraine and Messiaen were good friends throughout their lives and kept in frequent contact. A talented pupil, Barraine won First Prize in harmony at the Conservatoire at age fifteen (1925) and then in fugue and accompaniment when she was seventeen (1927). In 1929 she won the Prix de Rome for her cantata ‘La vierge guerrière’, making her the fourth female winner since the competition began in 1803. Her piece Harald Harfagard (1930), symphonic variations based on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, was the first composition of Barraine's to gain public recognition. This was her first work of many to take inspiration from literature, such as the later ‘Avis’ (1944) and ‘L’homme sur terre’ (1949), both based on Paul Éluard texts.

Barraine worked at the French National Radio from 1936 to 1940 as a pianist, sound recordist, and the head of singing, then after World War II as a sound mixer. During the war, Barraine was heavily involved in the French Resistance and was a member of the Front National des Musiciens. Between 1944 and 1947 she held the position of Recording Director at the well-established record label Le Chant du Monde. In 1953 Barraine was appointed to the faculty at the Paris Conservatoire, where she taught analysis and sight-reading until 1972. It was then that the Ministry of Culture named her Director of Music, giving her charge of all French national lyric theaters.

Biography taken from Wikipedia.

Ouvrage de Dame | 1931 | 9 mins

Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn

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