Review: Houston Symphony program featuring works by Lili and Nadia Boulanger

Posted on: February 17, 2022

“Courtesy of meticulous guest conductor Fabien Gabel and the Houston Symphony, last weekend Jones Hall audiences were treated to the U.S. premiere of Nadia Boulanger’s Fantasie variée for Piano and Orchestra as well as works by her sister Lili, César Franck and Igor Stravinsky,” writes Chris Gray in Tuesday’s (2/15) Houston Chronicle. “The orchestra was performing three of the four pieces for the first time. The first of them, Stravinsky’s Chant funébre [rediscovered in 2015], crawled from a dark, unsettled opening through passages of mournful horns and woodwinds to reach a shuddering crescendo.… Fantasie variée, written in 1912, revealed Nadia Boulanger to be a composer of rare wit, verve and invention. It’s fallen to Gabel and Alexandra Dariescu, the 36-year-old British-Romanian pianist, to rescue the piece from obscurity…. The Fantasie variée deserves to enter the standard repertoire…. The evening’s finale, ‘Faust et Helene,’ put the spotlight on Lili Boulanger, with the mini-opera that made her the first woman to win the illustrious Prix de Rome.” The latter featured vocalists Matthew White, Sasha Cooke, and Joshua Hopkins; also on the program was Franck’s Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra.