Elsa Barraine

Elsa Jacqueline Barraine (13 February 1910 in Paris – 20 March 1999 in Strasbourg) was a composer of French music in the time after the neoclassicist movement of Les Six, Ravel, and Stravinsky.[1] Despite being considered “one of the outstanding French composers of the mid-20th century,”[2] Barraine’s music is seldom performed today. She won the Prix de Rome in 1929 for La vierge guerrière, a sacred trilogy named for Joan of Arc,[3] and was the fourth woman ever to receive that prestigious award (after Lili Boulanger in 1913, Marguerite Canal in 1920, and Jeanne Leleu in 1923).[4]

Elsa Barraine 1940
Elsa Barraine in 1940


Paul Dukas and his composition students at the Paris Conservatoire, 1929. From left to right, around the piano: Pierre Maillard-Verger, Elsa Barraine, Yvonne Desportes, Tony Aubin, Pierre Revel, Georges Favre, Paul Dukas, René Duclos, Georges Hugon, Maurice Duruflé. Seated on the right: Claude Arrieu, Olivier Messiaen.

Born in Paris to Alfred Barraine, the principal cellist of the Orchestre de l’Opéra, and Mme. Barraine, Elsa Barraine began studying piano at a young age.[5] She attended the Conservatoire de Paris and studied composition with Paul Dukas, whose impressive list of students includes Yvonne Desportes, Maurice Duruflé, Claude Arrieu, and Olivier Messiaen.[6] Barraine and Messiaen were good friends throughout their lives and kept in frequent contact.[7] A talented pupil, Barraine won First Prize in harmony at the Conservatoire at age fifteen (1925) and then in fugue and accompaniment when she was seventeen (1927).[8] In 1929 she won the Prix de Rome for her cantata La vierge guerrière,[9] making her the fourth female winner since the competition began in 1803.[10] Her piece Harald Harfagard (1930), symphonic variations based on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, was the first composition of Barraine’s to gain public recognition.[11] This was her first work of many to take inspiration from literature, such as the later Avis (1944) and L’homme sur terre (1949), both based on Paul Éluard texts.[12]

Barraine worked at the French National Radio from 1936 to 1940 as a pianist, sound recordist, and the head of singing, then after World War II as a sound mixer.[13] During the war, Barraine was heavily involved in the French Resistance and was a member of the Front National des Musiciens.[14] Between 1944 and 1947 she held the position of Recording Director at the well-established record label Le Chant du Monde.[15] In 1953 Barraine was appointed to the faculty at the Paris Conservatoire, where she taught analysis and sight-reading until 1972.[16] It was then that the Ministry of Culture named her Director of Music, giving her charge of all French national lyric theaters.[17]

Compositional style

According to James Briscoe in his New Historical Anthology of Music by Women, “The music of Elsa Barraine wins over its listeners by a contrapuntal independence of line, virtuosity, and expressive intensity through motivic and rhythmic drive.”[18] It should also be noted that through her time studying with Dukas and the musical influence of Debussy, Barraine developed a keen and effective sense of instrumental timbre and color.[19] She embraced classic forms while making them her own, and used an entirely tonal harmonic language with one notable exception. Her chamber work Musique rituelle (1967) for organ, gongs, and xylorimba features serialism and is inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead.[20]

The authors of The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers observe the following:

Profoundly sensitive to the enormous upheavals of her time, Barraine was unable to dissociate her creative processes from her personal, humanist, political and social pre-occupations.[21]

In all of Elsa Barraine’s works there is an ardent focus on the human condition.[22] Like her contemporaries who formed La Jeune France, André Jolivet, Olivier Messiaen, Daniel-Lesur, and Yves Baudrier, she strove to reintroduce humanism to composition, an art becoming increasingly more abstract.[23] While some of her pieces address specific social and political issues, others explore a particular emotion or psychological state.[24] Examples of the former include Claudine à l’école (1950), her ballet based on a book by Colette which explores women’s sexuality, and her anti-fascist symphonic poem Pogromes (1933).[25] An example of the latter is Barraine’s programmatic woodwind quintet Ouvrage de Dame (1931 - Ed. A.J.Andraud, 1939). The quintet has eight movements, the Theme and seven Variations which are named after fictional women with different personality types ("Angélique ; Berthe, aux sonorités dures ; Irène, sinueuse ; Barbe, fugato burlesque ; Sarah ; Isabeau de Bavière, avec son chapeau conique et son voile flottant ; Léocadie, vieille fille sentimentale du temps jadis"). She makes clear the differences in temperament of the seven women with her talent for characterization and skillful use of timbre.[26] Once again in the words of James Briscoe, “Her contribution to music is significant, and Elsa Barraine is a major force awaiting full discovery by performers and critics.”[27]

Social and political issues

Criticism and sexism

Despite winning numerous prestigious awards, Elsa Barraine dealt with sexist attitudes in her professional career. Karin Pendle cites music critic René Dumesnil as an unfortunately common offender: “Like others of his time (and even today), Dumesnil voiced a kind of grudging respect for many of these composers as long as they were content to remain feminine in their music.”[28] Dumesnil once described Barraine’s fellow Prix de Rome prizewinner Jeanne Leleu as having “a vigor that one rarely encounters in works by women.”[29] As for Barraine, he referred to her as “the writer of prettily orchestrated melodies.”[30]

Involvement in the French Resistance

Elsa Barraine was an active member of the Front National des Musiciens, an organization of musicians involved in the French Resistance during the German Occupation between 1940 and 1944.[31] The main goals of the organization were listed in their journal, Musiciens d’Aujourd’hui, and were to organize concerts of new and banned French music, to support Jewish musicians by providing shelter or money, to arrange anti-German and anti-Collaborationist protests, and to engage in any and all forms of musical rebellion.[32] The résistant French conductor Roger Désormière, Les Six member Louis Durey, and Barraine together released a “manifesto for ‘the defence of French music’ and against any collaboration with the Nazis.”[33] Her heavy involvement in the Resistance was particularly brave, considering the fact that she seems to have had a Jewish background.


  1. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  2. ^ GMO
  3. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  4. ^ Pendle, p. 258
  5. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  6. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  7. ^ Simeone, p. 49
  8. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  9. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  10. ^ Pendle, p. 258
  11. ^ Briscoe, p. 366
  12. ^ GMO
  13. ^ GMO
  14. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  15. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  16. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  17. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  18. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  19. ^ GMO and Briscoe, p. 365
  20. ^ Briscoe, p. 365-366
  21. ^ Sadie, p. 38
  22. ^ GMO
  23. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  24. ^ Briscoe, p. 365-366
  25. ^ Briscoe, p. 365
  26. ^ Briscoe, p. 366
  27. ^ Briscoe, p. 366
  28. ^ Pendle, p. 258
  29. ^ Pendle, p. 258
  30. ^ Pendle, p. 258
  31. ^ Simeone, p. 23 and 45
  32. ^ Simeone, p. 46
  33. ^ Simeone, p. 43


Cited sources
  • Briscoe, James R. New Historical Anthology of Music by Women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • Germain-David, Pierrette. “Une compositrices, actrice du XXème siècle, Elsa Barraine (1910-1999).” Association Femmes et Musique, Paris. http://www.femmesetmusique.com/actualite.html (accessed Nov. 9, 2012).
  • Grove Music Online, S.v. “Barraine, Elsa,” by Françoise Andrieux and James R. Briscoe. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/02102 (accessed Nov. 9, 2012).
  • Pendle, Karin. Women and Music. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
  • Sadie, Julie Anne, and Rhian Samuel. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.
  • Simeone, Nigel. “Making Music in Occupied Paris.” The Musical Times 147, no. 1894 (Spring 2006), https://www.jstor.org/stable/25434357 (accessed Nov. 9, 2012).
Additional sources
  • Bourin, Odile, and Pierrette Germain-David. Elsa Barraine (1910-1999): une compositrice au XXe siècle. Sampzon: Editions Delatour France, 2010.
  • Moulder, Earline. “Jewish Themes in Elsa Barraine’s Second Prelude and Fugue for Organ.” Women of Note Quarterly: The Magazine of Historical and Contemporary Women Composers 3, no. 3 (Aug. 1995): 22-29, 31.
  • Moulder, Earline. “Rediscovering the Organ Works of Elsa Barraine.” Women of Note Quarterly: The Magazine of Historical and Contemporary Women Composers 3, no. 2 (May 1995): 21-29.
  • Ripley, Colette S. “Organ Music by French Women Composers.” American Organist Magazine 28 (Nov. 1994): 56-61.

External links

  • Works list from Grove Music Online
  • YouTube recording of Symphony No. 2, performed by the ORTF Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manuel Rosenthal
Albert Carré

Albert Carré (born Strasbourg 22 June 1852, died Paris 12 December 1938) was a French theatre director, opera director, actor and librettist. He was the nephew of librettist Michel Carré (1821–1872) and cousin of cinema director Michel Carré (1865–1945). His wife was the French soprano Marguerite Carré (1880–1947).

For over 50 years Albert Carré was a central personality in the theatrical and musical life of Paris.

Alexis Galpérine

Alexis Galpérine (born 1955) is a French classical violinist.

Anne-Marie Barat

Anne-Marie Barat (20 June 1948 – 21 December 1990) was a French classical organist.

Deva Dassy

Deva Dassy (born Marie-Anne Lambert; 26 August 1911 in Paris – 11 March 2016 in Mouriès) was a French mezzo-soprano, active in opera and operetta in France from the 1930s to the 1960s who made many radio and studio recordings.

Front National des Musiciens

The Front national des musiciens was an organization of musicians in Nazi occupied France that was part of the French Resistance. Active from the Spring of 1941 through the Autumn of 1944, the group's most prominent members were composers Elsa Barraine and Louis Durey, and conductor Roger Désormière.

Georges Caussade

Georges Caussade (20 November 1873 – 5 August 1936) was a French composer, music theorist, and music educator. Born in Port Louis, Mauritius, he joined the faculty of the Conservatoire de Paris in 1905 as a teacher of counterpoint. He began teaching fugue at the school as well in 1921; a position his wife, composer Simone Plé-Caussade, took over in 1928. Among his notable students are Jehan Alain, Georges Auric, Elsa Barraine, Lili Boulanger, Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, Georges Dandelot, Claude Delvincourt, Georges Hugon, Jeanne Leleu, Eugène Lapierre, Gaston Litaize, Paul Pierné, Georges-Émile Tanguay, Henri Tomasi, Marcel Tournier, and Marios Varvoglis. See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#Georges Caussade. In 1931 he published a book on the subject of harmony, Technique de l'harmonie. His most notable compositions are the operas Selgar et Moina and Légende de Saint George.

Jacques Chailley

Jacques Chailley (24 March 1910 in Paris – 21 January 1999 in Montpellier) was a 20th-century French musicologist and composer.

Jean Gallon

Jean Gallon (25 June 1878 - 23 June 1959) was a French composer, choir conductor, and music educator. His compositional output consists of six antiphons for strings and organ, one mass, one ballet, and several art songs.

Born in Paris, Gallon was the elder brother of composer Noël Gallon. He had a long association with the Paris Conservatoire, first as a student, then as the director of concerts (1906-1914), and then as a faculty member from 1919 to 1949. A professor of harmony, he taught such notable musicians as Elsa Barraine, Paul Bonneau, Henri Challan, Georges Dandelot, Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, Jeanne Demessieux, Pierre Dervaux, Maurice Duruflé, Henri Dutilleux, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Jean Hubeau, Paule Maurice, Olivier Messiaen, Jean Rivier, Pierre Sancan, and Paul Tortelier. He was the choir master at the Paris Opera from 1909 to 1914.

List of composers by name

This is a list of composers by name, alphabetically sorted by surname, then by other names. The list of composers is by no means complete. It is not limited by classifications such as genre or time period; however, it includes only music composers of significant fame, notability or importance who also have current Wikipedia articles. For lists of music composers by other classifications, see lists of composers.

This list is not for arrangers or lyricists (see list of music arrangers and lyricists), unless they are also composers. Likewise, songwriters are listed separately, for example in a list of singer-songwriters and list of Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees.

List of compositions for horn

This is a selected list of musical compositions that feature a prominent part for the natural horn or the French horn, sorted by era and then by composer.

List of female composers by birth date

The following is a list of female composers in the Western concert tradition, ordered by their year of birth. Women composers' names are still largely absent from music textbooks and concert programs that constitute the Western canon, even though a large number of women have composed music. The reasons for women's exclusion are various.

The musicologist Marcia Citron speculated that women composers were deemed less important than men because women typically wrote smaller works, such as art songs, rather than large works, such as symphonies, for public performance in large halls. Female composers were long barred from the profession, owing in part to the essentialist notion that women could not, in Citron's words, "control emotion with logic and reason, masculine attributes requisite for composition." Women were systematically denied access to compositional training and musical performances, and were castigated by critics for writing music that was either too feebly feminine or too unbecomingly masculine. Because the discrimination against women composers is related to general societal attitudes about gender or perceived roles of men and women, many musicologists and critics have come to incorporate gender studies in assessing the history and practice of the art.

Some notable Western composers and musicians include: Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath; Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847); Clara Schumann (1819–1896); Ethel Smyth (1858–1944); Amy Beach (1867–1944); Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979); Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979); Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983); Lili Boulanger (1893–1918); and Sofia Gubaidulina (1931–).

Female composers are also listed alphabetically at List of female composers by name.

List of female composers by name

This article provides a list of female composers, sorted alphabetically by surname. For a list of female composers sorted by year of birth, see List of female composers by birth year.

List of female film score composers

The following is a list of female film score composers.

List of symphony composers

This is a list of composers who have written symphonies, listed in chronological order by year of birth, alphabetical within year. It includes only music composers of significant fame, notability or importance who also have current Wikipedia articles. For lists of music composers by other classifications, see Lists of composers.

Paul Dukas

Paul Abraham Dukas (French: [dykas]; 1 October 1865 – 17 May 1935) was a French composer, critic, scholar and teacher. A studious man, of retiring personality, he was intensely self-critical, and he abandoned and destroyed many of his compositions. His best known work is the orchestral piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice (L'apprenti sorcier), the fame of which has eclipsed that of his other surviving works. Among these are the opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue, a symphony, two substantial works for solo piano, and a ballet, La Péri.

At a time when French musicians were divided into conservative and progressive factions, Dukas adhered to neither but retained the admiration of both. His compositions were influenced by composers including Beethoven, Berlioz, Franck, d'Indy and Debussy.

In tandem with his composing career, Dukas worked as a music critic, contributing regular reviews to at least five French journals. Later in his life he was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire de Paris and the École Normale de Musique; his pupils included Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen, Manuel Ponce, and Joaquín Rodrigo.

Prix de Rome

The Prix de Rome (pronounced [pʁi də ʁɔm]) or Grand Prix de Rome was a French scholarship for arts students, initially for painters and sculptors, that was established in 1663 during the reign of Louis XIV of France. Winners were awarded a bursary that allowed them to stay in Rome for three to five years at the expense of the state. The prize was extended to architecture in 1720, music in 1803, and engraving in 1804. The prestigious award was abolished in 1968 by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture.

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