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Lili Boulanger died on 15 March 1918, weakened by chronic pulmonary problems and Crohn’s disease. Claude Debussy died ten days later, but he was 56 to her 25. He was also male, self-evidently, and somewhere in that collision of facts and contrasts is the reason why we know little of Lili beyond a certain legend of beautiful suffering and the passionate but partisan advocacy of her formidable sister Nadia. But what a composer the younger sister was! She recognised the vocation in her teens and applied herself to a body of work that ranges between the youthfully affirmative tones of Renouveau, the shadow-side melancholy of Sous-bois and the startlingly beautiful Hymne au soleil, which has nothing of the faux-naïf about it, but still manages to sound like a child’s version of Impressionism, done in favourite but non-naturalistic colours. The choir does justice to every piece here: a monument to a singular talent that set too soon.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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