Nocturne & Cortège
In this masterclass, Professor Olivier Charlier works with student Victoria Pizzulo on phrasing, and bow management in Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne and Cortège. In Nocturne, he helps Pizzulo capture the right atmosphere for the work. He shows her how to better control her bow speed and distribution so that she can effectively convey the written dynamics and phrasing. He encourages her to bring more contrast and exaggeration in her phrasing, to always have a clear direction in the line, and to use harmonies to dictate the color of the sound. He also helps her make decisions about when and how much to take time. At the end of the class, they briefly work on Cortège. In this work, Professor Charlier helps her be more convincing with her rhythm and offers advice on articulation to best portray the spirit of the piece.
Creating the right atmosphere.
How to manage the bow for the most effective phrasing.
Exaggerating the details in dynamics and sound color, especially according to the harmony.
Where and how much to use rubato.
Always have direction in the phrase.
Capturing the rhythmic accuracy and specific articulation to match the character.
Lili Boulanger composed the short pieces Nocturne and Cortège in 1911 and 1914 respectively, just as she was rising to fame as a composer (she became the first woman to win the coveted Prix de Rome in 1913). Her music draws influence from composers such as Debussy and Fauré, though she was innovative in her own right. Nocturne was originally intended to be a piece for flute, perhaps inspired by Debussy’s monumental orchestral piece Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. However, the final product was a piece for violin and piano. The piece begins with a quiet, almost mystical atmosphere which builds to passionate expression before falling away again, ending with peaceful, delicate final chords. Cortège, on the other hand, was imagined first as a work for solo piano. Boulanger created a version for violin and piano in dedication to the violinist Yvonne Astruc. The piece is less than two minutes in length and full of lively spirit and joy.
And so, during 2-minute, 3-minute pieces, we must charge the event with as many colours and musical ideas as a full symphony or a full movement of sonata. So, the miniature form is not something just short. It is something very colourful with a lot of inventiveness.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Olivier Charlier’s feedback and comments.
Revealed by the Long-Thibaud Foundation competition
Olivier Charlier counts undoubtedly among the great violinists. He conquers the public with the natural grace of pure playing, as an exceptionally dedicated and gifted performer whose virtuosity supremely serves the music.
Of a remarkable precocity, he enters the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 10, and received illustrious support, as Nadia Boulanger, Yehudi Menuhin and Henryk Szeryng. Follows an impressive series of international rewards: Competition of Munich, Montreal, Sibelius, Jacques Thibaud, Indianapolis, Young Concert Artists (New york).
A brilliant career opens then and he is invited by the Parisian orchestras : Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Orchestre de l'Opera...) as well as numerous international orchestras: London Philharmonic, Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, Tonnhalle of Zurich, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic of Monte Carlo, RAI of Turin, BBC Orchestras, Pittsburgh Symphony, Orchestra of the Foundation Gulbenkian, National Orchestra of Belgium, Phiharmonique of Liège, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Tokyo Philharmonic, Orchestras of Montreal, Sydney, Mexico, Caracas...) and with conductors : Serge Baudo, Alain Lombard, Theodor Gushlbauer, Sakari Oramo, Yann-Pascal Tortelier, Armin Jordan, Pascal Rophé, Emmanuel Krivine, Gianandrea Noseda, Karl-Anton Rickenbacker, Lawrence Foster, James Judd, Yutaka Sado, Gustavo Dudamel, Jerzy Semkow, Charles Dutoit, Hans Graf, Klaus Weise, Michel Plasson...
His discography testifies of a great eclecticism: Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Grieg, St Saëns, Lalo... Next to the concerto "L'arbre des songes" of Dutilleux that he recorded twice, we also find works of Pierné, Lili Boulanger, Vierne, Gerard Schurmann, John McEwen, Edward Gregson, Roberto Gerhard, Cyril Scott, among whom several world premieres. His most recent recording is dedicated to Mozart concertos, with Prague Chamber Orchestra. Vivaldi will be released this year.
The Marlboro Festival was for the young Olivier a revelation, and he is since a fervent chambrist. He participates regularly to numerous festivals: Prades, "Folles journées" of Nantes, La Roque d'Anthéron, Orangerie of Sceaux, Berlioz festival, Nice, Radio-France-Montpellier...
Lili Boulanger was a French composer born in 1893 and was the first female winner of the Prix de Rome in composition. Her sister was the famous composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger. She died very young, at age 24, and left behind great oeuvres such as her cantata Faust et Hélène inspired by Goethe’s Faust.
Born in Paris in the spring of 1893 in a musical family, Lili Boulanger was quickly recognized as a child prodigy when Fauré declared that young Lili, who was only 2 at the time, had the perfect pitch. Boulanger followed her sister Nadia to her Paris Conservatoire classes when she was only 5. She then learned to sing, to play piano, violin, cello, and harp. In 1912, at the age of 18, she competed in the famous Prix de Rome but was gravely ill and collapsed during her performance. She entered the competition the following year and won with her cantata Faust et Hélène, becoming the first woman to win the competition in history.
She was greatly affected by the death of her father in 1900 and her subsequent pieces were marked by sadness, loss, and grief. She was influenced by composers like Debussy and Fauré and is known for her colorful harmonies and texts.
Lili Boulanger was, unfortunately, suffering from a chronic illness linked to pneumonia and had a weak immune system. She passed away at the young age of 24 from intestinal tuberculosis, failing to complete her last opera La Princesse Maleine, after Maeterlinck, which she spent her last two years working on. She helped shape the post-Romantic era and explored expressionism and symbolism.
She was buried in the family tomb in Montmartre, where her sister Nadia was later buried in 1979.
Photo by Henri Manuel