1907 - 1993
Yvonne Desportes (18 July 1907 – 29 December 1993) was a French composer, writer, and music educator. She was born in Coburg, Germany, to Émile Desportes, a composer, and Bertha Froriep, a painter. She was a student of Paul Dukas and won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome in 1932. She taught at the Paris Conservatoire and wrote many music textbooks. She composed over 500 works.
She studied piano with Yvonne Lefébure and Alfred Cortot. She took a preparatory solfege class at the Paris Conservatoire in 1918. She studied for three years at the École Normale de Musique and then attended the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris from 1925 to 1932. She took classes from Jean and Noël Gallon, Marcel Dupré, Maurice Emmanuel, and Paul Dukas.
In 1927, Desportes won the Premier Prix in harmony. In 1928 she won the Premier Prix in fugue. She competed for the Prix de Rome four times. In 1929 she did not advance to the second round. In 1930 she won the Deuxième Second Grand Prix. Paul Bertrand's review of Desportes's cantata Actéon, which appeared in Le Ménestrel, remarked on her harmonic conception and on her femininity: "On the whole it is conceived harmonically and not contrapuntally, solidly established from the beginning in the tonality of E within which she deploys pleasant drumming chords. It is all delicacy, all femininity, attested by a marked predilection for ternary measures and rhythms, evoking with a pleasant spontaneaity, a touching freshness of feeling."
In 1931 she won the Premier Second Grand Prix. Paul Bertrand wrote in his annual review that "Her Cantata was perhaps, out of all of them, the most homogeneous and the most skilful [sic] by a keen sense of progressions and contrast. But it seemed to last somewhat both scope and real senstivitiy". She beat Henriette Puig-Roget who won the Deuxième Second Grand Prix. Two females had never won these prizes in the same year before.
In 1932 Desportes won the Premier Grand Prix. Paul Betrand wrote: "Mlle. Desportes possesses a real sensitivity and a precious gift for dramatic expression. She found herself at ease in the interpretation of a text of clearly theatrical nature. Without sacrificing to excess the intrinsic quality of the music, she subordinated it to the drama, and notably gave to the Romance a colour at once simple and moving, enveloped the drinking song in a picturesque fantasy."
Her cantata was also praised for its unified cyclic structure. In her dissertation Musiciennes: Women Musicians in France during the Interwar Years, 1919-1939, Laura Ann Hamer discusses Desportes's win and her life struggles.
The Institut de France's "awarding of the Premier Grand Prix to Desportes in 1931 [sic], at a time when the French government actively sought to marginalise women within the domestic sphere and to exclude them from public life, suggests that women were sufficiently accepted by the Académie des Beaux-Arts to allow them to award their highest prize to a young mother, whose divorce and determination to succeed as a musician represented a significant flouting of normal social conventions in interwar France".
Biography taken from Wikipedia.