Known chiefly as an inspiration to such greats as Copland, Glass and Piazzolla, Nadie Boulanger was primarily a teacher. Her teaching stemmed from an immense talent in orchestral composition. Musical critic M. Vuillemin wrote that the piece had a “masculine vigor,” comparing her work complimentarily to that of a man.
The piano decisively sets the theme after a brief orchestral introduction, and doubles the strings in arpeggiated descending chords until the brass darkens the mood. The piano begins a solo nostalgic theme, constantly launching downward arpeggios as the melody continues in the topmost notes. Strings join back in and continue to exchange chords with the moving piano part. In a constantly shifting piece, Boulanger takes the listener through different lands in a blur of snapshots.
Harmonically and texturally, the Fantasie resembles the orchestral work of Debussy. Symbolism and Impressionism were the trend in the early nineteen-teens, and it is apparent in her use of the whole tone scale to mask a key center, as well as the through-composed form that enables listeners to never stop in the aural journey.
Boulanger’s music is vastly different from that of the composers she most notably influenced (Copland, etc). She stood out in other ways as well. She was the first female to conduct for the BBC Orchestra, Boston Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic, just to name a few, and was a guest lecturer at universities around the United States as well as Europe.
Rosenstiel, Leonie Nadia Boulanger: A Life in Music, 1982