Germaine Tailleferre (April 19, 1892 - November 7, 1983) was a French composer and the only female member of the famous Group Les Six.
Born Germaine Taillefesse at Saint Maur Des Fossés, Ile-de-France, France, as a young woman she changed her last name to "Tailleferre" to spite her father who had refused to support her musical studies. She studied piano with her mother at home and composing short works of her own then began at the Conservatory in Paris where she met Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger. At the Paris Conservatory she won first prize in several categories and wrote the 18 short works in the Petit livre de harpe de Madame Tardieu for Caroline Tardieu, the Conservatory’s Assistant Professor of Harp.
With her new friends, she soon was associating with the artistic crowd in Montmartre and Montparnasse including the sculptor Emmanuel Centore who would eventually marry her sister Jeanne. It was in the Montparnasse atelier of one of her painter friends where the initial idea for Les Six began. The publication of Jean Cocteau's manifest Le Coq et l'Arlequin resulted in Henri Collet's media articles that led to instant fame for the group. As the only female, she brought a uniquely fresh and feminine quality to the group’s compositions. Today, she is one of the most recorded.
The other members of "Les Six" were:
Georges Auric - (1899-1983)
Louis Durey - (1888-1979)
Arthur Honegger - (1892-1955)
Darius Milhaud - (1892-1974)
Francis Poulenc - (1899-1963)
In 1923, Tailleferre began to spend a great deal of time with Maurice Ravel at his home in Monfort-L'Amaury. Ravel encouraged her to enter the Prix de Rome Competition. In 1925, she married Ralph Barton, an American caricaturist, and moved to Manhattan, New York. She remained in the United States until 1927 when she and her husband returned to France. They divorced shortly thereafter.
On her own, Tailleferre wrote a series of short works for the piano during the 1920s - 1930s as well as several film scores. At the outbreak of World War II, she was forced to leave her home near Nice. Escaping across Spain to Portugal, she found passage on a boat that brought her to America where she lived the war years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After the war, in 1946, she returned to her home in France where she composed orchestral and chamber music, plus numerous other works including four full-length ballet scores, four full-length operas, as well as many shorter operas and two musical comedies. The majority of this music was not published until after her death.
During the 1960s, she composed a large number of scores for films and television and in 1976, she accepted the post of accompanist for a children's music and movement class at the École alsacienne, a private school in Paris.
Germaine Tailleferre continued to compose right up until a few weeks before her death, on November 7, 1983 in Paris. She is buried in Quincy-Voisins, Seine-et-Marne, France.