, March 2008
Mademoiselle, the DVD release of Bruno Monsaingeon’s 1977 film about renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, is a fascinating document. It includes footage of Boulanger from the 1970s, still teaching as she neared ninety years of age. Her exacting standards, detailed criticism, and keen analytical mind are all on display.
Igor Markevitch and Leonard Bernstein are interviewed, discussing Boulanger’s impact on 20th century music. Markevitch shares his formative experiences as a student of Boulanger. Bernstein recounts Boulanger’s criticisms of one of his songs, including a suggestion that he had included “the wrong note.” Although he had never previously studied with Boulanger, the then 58 year-old felt as if he was “back in school” and receiving a composition lesson!
Most fascinating are Monsaingeon’s conversations with Boulanger. Her steadfast devotion to teaching is an inspiration. Any composer or educator who needs an antidote to their creative malaise or writer’s block should listen to what she has to say about the restorative and ineffable power of music.