Nadia Boulanger, who was regarded as the most influential teacher of music in the 20th century, died Monday in Paris. She was 92.
An Associated Press dispatch from Paris quoted family sources as saying that Miss Boulanger had been in a coma "for some time." The cause of her death was not disclosed.
Miss Boulanger was a noted performer of music -- she played the organ, the piano and the harpsichord -- and a guest conductor of some of the world's leading orchestras. These included the Boston and Philadelphia symphonies, the Royal Philharmonic in London and the New York Philharmonic. She selected and conducted most of the music played at the wedding in 1956 of the former Grace Kelly of Philadelphia and Prince Rainier of Monaco.
But it was as a teacher that "Mademoiselle," as she was known to her students, made her largest and most lasting contribution. Whether with classes or with private students, her purpose -- and her gift -- was to nuture the particular styles of her students while instilling in each the high standards that marked her own work.
Among composers who studied with her were Virgil Thompson, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Elliott Carter, Marc Blitzstein, David Diamond, Irving Fine and Harold Shapero. Performers who came to her included the conductor Igor Markevitch, pianists Clifford Curzon, Dinu Lipatti and Dalton Baldwin, and harpsicordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. Luise Vosguerchian, another student, became the first woman to head the music department of Harvard University.
Aaron Copland, the first of the Americans to study with her, once said that "Mademoiselle" knew "everything there was to know about music" by the time she was 30.
"She knew the oldest and the latest music, pre-Bach and post-Stravinsky and knew it cold," Copland said. "All technical know-how was at her fingertips: harmonic transposition, figured bass, score reading, organ registration, instrumental techniques, structural analyses, the school fugue and the free fugue, the Greek modes and Gregorian chants."
In 1957, Jean Cocteau wrote the following tribute to her:
"There are those names which escape from the cyclone of indifference, and the ogre of daily events. The name of Nadia Boulanger is one of these, for it has attained a position of nobility that makes it invisible to the mediocre. It is rare that a young musician intrigues us, or that his work at least partially opens a door, without his disclosing that he is a pupil of Nadia Boulanger."
Miss Boulanger was born in Paris on Sept. 16, 1887. Her father, Ernest, was a professor at the Paris Conservatory and a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome. Her mother was the daughter of a Russian prince. p
Miss Boulanger became a student at the Conservatory at an early age. When she was 15, she won its first prize in harmony. A year later, she won the first prizes in organ, in accompaniment, and in the art of the fugue. Later, she won the Prix de Rome. (Her sister, Lili, a brilliant musician who died in 1918 at the age of 24, also was a laureate of the Prix de Rome).
"Mademoiselle" began teaching at the Paris Conservatory. Later, she taught at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. In 1921, she helped found the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau outside Paris. She was professor of harmony, counterpoint and composition. In 1952, she succeeded the great French pianist Robert Casadesus as director at Fontainebleau. And until shortly before her death she taught at her longtime residence at 36 Rue Ballu, which is also called "1 Place Lili Boulanger" in honor of her sister.
In recent years, Miss Boulanger was afflicted by failing vision and other ailments. Despite her infirmities, she was albe to proofread an edition of 17 of her sister's words that is being published by the G. Schirmer music company, according to a spokesman there. She did it by having a secretary read the music to her note by note.
Miss Boulanger made several visits to the United States. In 1938, she conducted the world premier of the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto by Igor Stravinsky in Washington. The work had been commissioned by Robert Bliss Woods, the owner of Dumbarton Oaks, as a present for his wife.
In 1959, Miss Boulanger lectured at the old Institute of Contemporary Arts in Washington. She took questions from the audience at the close of her talk and one of them was a request that she "say a few words about the origins of contemporary music."
What followed was a dazzling survey of modern music beginning with the Requiem of Gabriel Faure, which was written in 1887, and continuing through the works of Leonard Bernstein and other composers who are still active. When she finished, the audience roared its appreciation.
"Mademoiselle's" unremitting enthusiasm and her devotion to her work was tempered by wit. She once said that the students who applied to her could be divided into three classes. The first, she said, were "those without money and without talent; those I don't take.Those with talent and without money; those I take. Those with talent AND money; those I Don't get."
Aaron Copland once worte that "the influence of this remarkable woman on American creative music will some day be written." On the occasion of her 90th birthday, Paul Hume, the music critic of The Washington Post, wrote that the story of that influence "has already been written -- in great quantities of the finest music this country has produced."