Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Louise Talma

Louise Talma  (1906-1996)

New York City, 1991….phone conversation….

“Hello, may I please speak to Louise Talma?”  “Speaking.”  “Miss Talma, my name is Kathleen Shimeta and I am a mezzo-soprano.  You do not know me.  I am calling because I am in the midst of planning a recital of American art songs composed by living composers.  When I perform this recital, I would like the composers to be in the audience.  The program will take place in November, American Music Month, so my recital honors living American composers.  I would like to include some of your songs on the program.”  “Have you purchased any of my songs?” “Not yet.”  “Well, when you have purchased my songs, call me back.”  And, she abruptly hung up the phone.  Thus was my introduction to composer, Louise Talma.

Born in Arcachon, France, Miss Talma was raised in New York City.  Her musical training took place at Institute of Musical Arts (which became Juilliard), New York University and Columbia University.  Each summer from 1926-1939 she studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. 

Among Louise Talma’s achievements was the performance of her opera The Alcestiad in Frankfurt, Germany, a major opera house in Europe.  She was the first American woman to have held this honor.  Her collaborator for the opera was Thornton Wilder.  In addition, she was the first American to teach at Fontainbleau.  In 1974, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Again, Miss Talma was the first female composer to have this honor. 

A prolific composer, Louise Talma composed countless songs, song cycles and choral works as well as well as chamber music and piano pieces.

In July 1945, Gena Branscombe and Louise Talma spent a month composing at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.  They knew one another!

My friend and colleague, Sarah Dorsey, is a leading authority on Louise Talma.  Sarah is in the midst of writing a biography of the composer.  Can't wait to read your book, Sarah!

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