Thus begins the title of the critic of Michael Thallium for the magazine Scherzo of 22/01/2022: “…an outstanding choir, a virtuoso pianist and a very solvent orchestra”.

“They oppressed me a lot from my youth, but they did not manage to defeat me”, reads the translation of the original text in French that the composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) employed for Psalm 129 (Ils m’ont ases oprimé dès ma jeunesse). Lili was the younger sister of Nadia Boulanger, the Mademoiselle of filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon. Lili Boulanger’s health was very delicate from her early childhood. She died very young, aged only 24, of extrapulmonary tuberculosis, now known as Crohn’s disease, but that did not prevent her from being the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913, an award that her sister Nadia never won. If she had lived longer, Lili Boulanger would have become the great composer of the 20th century. However, fate is capricious and there are lives that are prematurely cut short and leave us alive with speculation of what might have been.

©Centre international Nadia et Lili Boulanger

Lili Boulanger composed Psalm 129 in 1916, during her stay at the Villa Medici, headquarters of the Académie de France in Rome. Originally written for baritone and large orchestra, there is a later version, for mixed choir, arranged by Nadia Boulanger. It is precisely this version with which the Chorus and Symphonic Orchestra RTVE opened the fifth concert of the season “Echoes of the Belle Époque”. For the occasion, the orchestra counted on Jaime Martín, guest conductor, who goes through some years of brilliant musical maturity. Psalm 129 begins with a dramatic and intense orchestral introduction of 30 bars that lasts about two minutes. Then, the male voices enter in unison, and it will not be until the beautiful final coda when the female voices enter, as a sound nimbo crowning the words We bless you in the name of the Eternal who sing the male voices. The RTVE Choir sang very well, maintaining the tension, drama and emotion of a play that lasts barely eight minutes. A succulent appetizer for the audience, who knew how to recognize it with applause and recognition to the choir and who is its conductor since September 2021, the Asturian Marco Antonio García de Paz.

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