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In her all too brief career, Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) composed a number of works whose existence is unquestioned for which there is proof they existed but which have now disappeared. One of these missing pieces, Marche gaie, resurfaced in short score form in 2011 in a private collection in North Carolina; the owners of the manuscript are the grandchildren of the work’s dedicatee, Jeanne Leygues. As Marche gaie was registered with SACEM (the collecting Society for music in France) as a work for chamber orchestra in 1916, we can assume it was composed in that year. While the manuscript is in an unknown hand, there is musical and circumstantial evidence, combined with testimony from the family (whose Leygues ancestors knew the Boulanger family well), that shows beyond reasonable doubt that this is a missing work by Lili Boulanger.
Jeanne Leygues, daughter of the French politician Georges Leygues, briefly Prime Minister in 1920-1 and a great supporter of the arts, married an American, Paul Rockwell, who fought with his brother in the French Foreign Legion in World War I. We can assume that Marche gaie was commissioned for Jeanne’s wedding in December 1916, not least because the piece alludes to Mendelssohn’s famous Wedding March in bars 25-32, a gesture typical of Lili Boulanger, who was fond of quotation and allusion. Marche gaie was originally paired with a Marche funèbre, a work yet to resurface.
It is a pleasure to bring this occasional piece to life. The author is very grateful to Paul Sholar and Vance Brown, of Asheville, North Carolina, for their generous assistance in preparing Marche gaie for publication.
- Caroline Potter
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