Boulanger, Lili


Boulanger, Lili

Psalm 129 for baritone & orchestra (Vocal Score)

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Boulanger, Lili – Psalm 129 for baritone & orchestra (Vocal Score)

Psalm 129
Outside of Boulanger’s fans and dedicated scholars, Psalm 129 is perhaps the least well-known, yet it has been seen as the most autobiographical due to the opening all too true statement: “Ils m’ont assez opprimé dès ma jeunesse” (They have oppressed me, since I was young). Composed in 1916 at the Villa de Medici in Rome during her second stay, along with Psalm 24, this work is perhaps her most harmonically adventurous and “breathes an intensely dramatic note” (Landormy 1930). Her harmonies often add second, fourths or sevenths. This Psalm was first performed in 1921 in the Salle Pleyel (Concerts Dandelot), conducted by Henri Busser. It demonstrates a mature technical grasp of the orchestra, while revealing her penchant for mid range voices in her choice of a Baritone soloist, and further is testament to her detailed structural awareness. There is a perceivable dramatic line throughout the work.

Notably, the orchestral introduction is substantial (30 bars). Its slow Grave tempo indulges each chord. The woodwind open in a choral style homophonic passage, joined before figure 1 by lower strings. The lower register of these instruments is indulged, giving a dark, warm timbre. Ascending scalic string motivic fragments led to figure 3 when the voices first enter. Her penchant for the lower voices is revealed, as with Psalm 24: here the tenors and basses begin in unison using speech rhythms to ensure the clarity of the text. Although there is a comparison with Psalm 24 when considering the register of the voices, the similarity of the psalms ends there. Psalm 129 is much longer and the orchestra develops a dramatic role beyond that of vocal accompaniment. For example, as the tenor and basses hold the last note of their first phrase the strings interject with descending five note motives moving down from violins, violas, cellos and basses. The chordal progressions of the introduction are repeated during this opening vocal passage, though with different rhythmic and melodic material. This emphasises the importance of the harmonic development to unify the piece. Migot, writing in La revue musicale, recognises a contrast between Lili the woman and her music: “Les progressions mâles et puissantes expriment la haine sourd et la colères exaspérée d’un peuple opprimé.” (Its masculine and powerful chord progressions are expressive of the dull hatred and exasperation of an oppressed people.) (Migot, 1924)…

For more information on the piece:

Read the preface to the full score / das Vorwort zur Partitur lesen > HERE



Score No.



Repertoire Explorer


Choir/Voice & Orchestra


225 x 320 mm


Piano Reduction & Voice



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