Throughout music history the place of female composers is shrouded in mystery. While is it rare to come across a male composer who is poorly documented, it seems that many female composers descend into obscurity after their deaths. One exception is French composer Nadia Boulanger, heralded as one of the first powerful female composers. Boulanger is associated with the education of several highly regarded composers, such as Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter and Philip Glass. Among Boulanger’s first pupils was fellow French woman Marcelle de Manziarly. Manziarly herself is unfortunately elusive to research, and whilst her name is mentioned in reference to other composers and people of interest it seems that her life as a musician and composer will remain largely unknown.
Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1899 to wealthy Russian and American parents, Manziarly began composing at the age of 12. Having studied composition in Paris with Boulanger and piano in New York with Isabelle Vengerova, teacher of Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein, Manziarly wrote several chamber music pieces, a number of orchestral works and a handful of songs. She was well-known as a conductor and pianist, and appears in connection to renowned musicians such as Copland and Stravinsky, and remained close friends with Boulanger, who actively promoted her music.
Manziarly’s compositional style is consistent with early 20th century French music, influenced by Debussy and Stravinsky. Her pieces are based in tonality, highly rhythmic, and coloured by dissonances and modal melodic lines. Manziarly’s Trio was written in 1952 in four movements. The Introduction is mysterious and apprehensive at first, before becoming more driven towards the end. The second and fourth movements are lively and impish with rhythmic drive. These are contrasted by the luxurious third movement.