Mélanie Bonis’s parents identified her musical talent at a very young age. Even though her family was middle class, they made it possible to study with some of the greatest music pedagogues in all of France. She was introduced to César Franck in 1876, and a year later he became her organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire. While at the Conservatoire, she studied harmony with Eernest Guiraud alongside her classmates Pierné and Debussy. She won the Conservatoire’s First Prize in Harmony in 1880.After marrying Albert Domange in 1883, she took about ten years to start her family. She began composing again in 1894, penning works at a prolific rate. Almost all of her 300 works were published during her lifetime, most under the pseudonym Mel-Bonis. She composed across a variety of genres, including chamber music, choral works, orchestral masterpieces, as well as both sacred and secular organ pieces. Her music was praised by the great French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. After she had died, her children assembled some of her notebooks and diaries into a memoir, Souvenirs et réflexions, which was published in 1974.
For more information:
Jenna Daum. Mel Bonis: Six Works for Flute and Piano. DMA Document, Arizona State University, 2013.
Christine Géliot. Mel Bonis: femme et compositeur (1858 – 1937). Paris: Collection Univers musical, 2001.
Christine Géliot. “Compositions for voice by Mel Bonis, French woman composer, 1858-1937.” Journal of Singing 64, no. 1 (2007): 47.