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Classical music has a history of Composing… Women! So this Women’s History Month Tri States Public Radio and the WIU School of Music shines the spotlight… one every weekday… on over twenty great female composers. From baroque to romantic… to impressionist… to post-serialist. From the mystic Abbess who advised the Pope… to the Chicagoan whose works were rediscovered in an abandoned house. Listen in for Composing Women… Every weekday during March at 7:19 during Morning Edition, or at 5:48 during All Things Considered, as TSPR Music Director Ken Zahnle introduces you to our composer of the day… and at 11:00 a.m. during Ovation for a featured work by our featured classical master.

Germaine Taillefesse

Germaine Tailleferre

Born Germaine Taillefesse… she changed her last name to spite her father, who tried to forbid her a career in music…Germaine Tailleferre was the only female member of the famed generation of French composers known as The Six.

Tailleferre entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where her colleagues, the future Les Six, were students or acquaintances: Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, George Auric, Francis Poulenc, Louis Durey, and herself. Equally important to her artistic formation was the eccentric composer Eric Satie, who named Germaine his “musical daughter.” Satie served as an artistic godfather and promoter to the young composers, followed by the famed dramatist Jean Cocteau.

Tailleferre composed several successful orchestral works and ballets in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but difficulties abounded: her father was abusive; she needed to teach to support her ailing mother after his death; she suffered two unhappy marriages (both with men who were opposed to her composing); and many of her manuscripts were burned by Nazi soldiers to heat her commandeered house during World War II.

Nevertheless, she continued to compose prolifically, developing a special focus on film and television scores. Regarding her obstacles, she said, “I do not like to talk about it, because I write happy music as a release. But anyway, things were always against me.”

Composing until her last days, Tailleferre lived into her nineties, the last of Les Six.

Germaine Tailleferre… a Composing Woman.


Jeux de plein air (1918)
Le marchand d’oiseaux (1923) ballet
Piano Concerto (1923-4)
Concertino for Harp (1927)
Cantate du Narcisse (1938)
Violin Sonata No. 2(1947-8)
Concerto des vaines paroles (1954)
Clarinet Sonata (1957)
Piano Trio (begun in 1916-7, finished in 1978)

Supporting Materials


Ken oversees all music programming for Tri States Public Radio, hosting the morning classical music program Ovation, the Saturday nigh jazz survey After Hours, and engineering recorded performances for TSPR. Ken is a native of Highland Park, IL, with degrees in music and broadcasting from Western Illinois University. Teenage years listening to Chicago's old-school fine arts and classical radio stations, coupled with a few months spinning discs on a college residence hall radio station, led him onto the primrose career path of radio. Ken has deep roots at TSPR, starting as a student staff announcer and host, before becoming news director for a group of local radio stations, then Program Director for Tri States Audio Information Services. When he's not deep within our studios and music library, he continues his over quarter-century of assisting Macomb High School's Marching Band.