Nadia Boulanger and the Stravinskys

March 2018
15 black and white illustrations
348 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
University of Rochester Press
BISAC BIO004000, MUS020000, SOC028000

Nadia Boulanger and the Stravinskys

A Selected Correspondence

Edited by Kimberly A. Francis

Published for the first time: a rich epistolary dialogue revealing one master teacher's power to shape the cultural canon and one great composer's desire to embed himself within historical narratives.
Nadia Boulanger and Igor Stravinsky began corresponding in 1929 when Stravinsky sought someone to supervise the musical education of his younger son, Soulima. Boulanger accepted the position and began what would prove to be a warm and lasting dialogue with the Stravinsky family. For fifty years, Boulanger exchanged letters with Igor Stravinsky. An additional 140 letters exist written to Boulanger from Stravinsky's immediate family: his wife Catherine, his mother Anna, and his sons Théodore and Soulima.

Nadia Boulanger and the Stravinskys: A Selected Correspondence makes available a rich selection from this many-sided dialogue. The letters are published here in English translation (most for the first time in their entirety or at all). The little-known French originals are available on the book's companion website. The letters allow us to follow the conversation shared between Boulanger and the Stravinskys from 1929 until 1972, the year following Igor Stravinsky's death. Through the words they exchanged, we see Boulanger and Stravinsky transition from respectful colleagues to close friends to, finally, distant icons, with music serving always as a central topic. These letters are a testament to one master teacher's power to shape the cultural canon and one composer's desire to embed himself within historical narratives. Their words touch upon matters professional and personal, musical and social, with the overall narrative reflecting the turmoil of life during the twentieth century and the fragility of artists hoping to leave their mark on the modernist period.

Kimberly A. Francis is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Guelph, Canada.

Table of Contents

October 1929-August 1938
Toward America: January 1939-June 1940
The American Years: November 1940-January 1946
After the War, 1946-1951
A Friendship Unravels, 1951-1956
Old Friends: 1956-1972


A model of scholarship. As a reference into the gestation and completion of works like Symphony of Psalms this book is indispensable...[Boulanger's] proof-reading notes to Stravinsky are astounding in their perception and detail....[The companion website] is a true research tool and keeps the length of the book manageable. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

Reading it is an absorbing experience...sheds new light on an important relationship between two exceptional personalities. GRAMOPHONE

The letters are often moving, and are undoubtedly vital for those studying either figure. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

The correspondence between Nadia Boulanger and the Stravinsky family circle is well worth translating into English. No amount of reporting about their interchanges can substitute for actually following the letters chronologically and absorbing their tone, where personal matters are inextricably entwined with professional ones and Boulanger's absolute admiration for the composer shines through so often. Kimberly Francis's book documents an important moment in twentieth-century music, and also an important moment in the history of women in music. --Steven Huebner, McGill University

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