Lili was the sister of Nadia Boulanger, the Paris-based composition pedagogue who was a profound influence over dozens of 20th century composers. Lili died at age 24 of a childhood disease, but created a number of memorable works which seem to be the products of a much older and mature master composer. Her music is little known but deserves much more attention. Mostly of a Catholic religious nature, her music is modern-sounding but tonal and full of a rare beauty.
The setting of the Psalm 150 is the largest-scale work here – a passionate statement. The Buddhist Prayer is a most moving work, and the Pie Jesu – with its boy soprano and very small ensemble – is a highly intense piece with gorgeous melody. It leaves Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu in the dust. If you become devoted to Lili Boulanger as a result of this introduction, there is a Chandos disc of more Boulanger works. The Markevitch performances have been on Everest LP, tape and CD and on EMI CD, but the fidelity of this 96K transfer from the prerecorded tape easily wins over other optical disc versions. It’s unfortunate there is no libretto provided.
– John Sunier