Petite Suite pour Orchestre
1892 – 1983
Of all the students to come out of the Paris Conservatoire, Germaine Tailleferre probably does not come to mind. This is mostly due to the challenges she faced as a female composer in a highly male-dominated industry. Nevertheless, Tailleferre persisted, composing works equally impactful to her contemporaries. Tailleferre’s _Petite Suite pour Orchestre _was composed in 1957 for the Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, the state and federally-funded French national broadcasting network. The Baroque suite was nothing new to Tailleferre, and she borrowed its multi-movement progression with contrasting dances. However, to retain qualities of “petite,” she resorts to an abridged version with only three movements: “Prélude,” “Sicilienne,” and “Les filles de la Rochelle.” A suite is incomplete without a prelude, and Tailleferre follows traditions here. “Prélude” is reminiscent of Claude Debussy’s elegantly evolving harmonies that don’t suggest a tonal center but rather a sensation of harmonic “floating.” The textures increase, growing into what resembles a glistening sunrise. A cheerful, child-like section follows, with melodies led by the clarinets and oboes, the celesta and percussion gracefully responding with swinging figures. An ominous “Sicilienne” follows to contrast the youthful energy in the prior movement. Floating lines are brought down, adding sensations of great depth and weight. Tailleferre concludes the suite with an energetic rendition of the French folk song “Les filles de la Rochelle.” This catchy melody is tossed around the orchestra, from the muted trumpet to the percussion. The work concludes abruptly, with the timpani contributing one last statement as a solo.