Francis Poulenc, classical music composer

Francis Poulenc

Biography

Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc ((7 January 1899 - 30 January 1963) was a French composer and a member of the French group Les Six. He composed solo piano music, chamber music, oratorio, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music. Critic Claude Rostand, in a July 1950 Paris-Presse article, described Poulenc as "half monk, half delinquent" ("le moine et le voyou"), a tag that was to be attached to his name for the rest of his career.

Poulenc was born in Paris in 1899. His father Emile Poulenc was a second generation director of Poulenc and later Rhône-Poulenc chemical corporation. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play. He was a capable pianist and the keyboard dominated his early compositions. Later in his life, the loss of close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscover the Roman Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone.

Poulenc was a member of Les Six, a loose-knit group of young French and Swiss composers (it also included Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre) who had links with Erik Satie, Jean Hugo and Jean Cocteau. He embraced the Dada movement's techniques, creating melodies more appropriate for Parisian music halls than the concert hall.

He was identified with this group before he undertook his first formal musical training, with Charles Koechlin in 1921.

Poulenc's music is fundamentally tonal; although he made use of harmonic innovations such as pandiatonicism, chromiatically altered chords, and even 12-tone rows (in a few of his last works), Poulenc never questioned the vailidity of traditional tonic-dominant harmony. Lyrical melody pervades his music and underlies his important contributions to vocal music, particularly French art song.

Poulenc's career as a composer can be divided into several periods. The first, which lasted through the 1920's, was the time when he was most closely associated with Les Six. Poulenc's most immediate influeces during this period were Chabrier, Debussy, Satie, and Stravinsky, and he generally followed the irreverent, flippant aesthetic stance of Les Six with works such as Les Biches (1923), Concert Champêtre (1928), and Concerto for two pianos and orchestra (1932). Poulenc's religious reawakening in 1936 resulted in the creation of his first sacred pieces, Litanies à la Vierge Noire de Rocamadour (1936) and the Mass in G (1937); this trend toward "new dimensions and greater depth" in the composer's style was solidified by the song cycle Tel jour, telle nuit (1937) and Concerto in G minor for organ, strings, and timpani (1938). The remainder of Poulenc's career consisted of a "gradual deepening and distillation" of his basic style, and featured an increased concentration on sacred music and music for the stage, including Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1947), Stabat Mater (1950), Dialogues des Carmelites (1957), Gloria (1959), and Sept répons des ténèbres (1962). Among Poulenc's last major works is a series of sonatas for wind instruments and piano. He was particularly fond of woodwinds, and planned a set of sonatas for all of them, yet only lived to complete four: sonatas for flute, oboe, clarinet, and the Elégie for horn. Poulenc died of heart failure in Paris in 1963 and is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Poulenc had only one piano student, Gabriel Tacchino, who has performed and recorded all his piano music, lending it a unique insight.

Poulenc was a featured pianist in recordings, including some of his own songs (with Pierre Bernac, recorded in 1947; and Rose Dercourt) and the Concerto for Two Pianos (recorded in May 1957). He supervised the 1961 world premiere recording of his Gloria, which was conducted by Georges Prêtre. His recordings were released by RCA Victor and EMI. Poulenc's Perpetual Motion No. 1 (1918) is used in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948).

Composer Title Date Action
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano 01/17/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Flute and Piano 01/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Les soirées de Nazelles 02/26/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, 2nd movement 07/08/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Three Novelettes for piano 01/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Three Novelettes and Toccata 01/17/2009 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Fiançailles pour Rire 01/29/2010 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Cello and Piano 02/09/2010 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Cello and Piano 06/13/2010 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Les chemins de l'amour 10/11/2010 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon 01/13/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Violin Sonata, FP 119 07/05/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Vinea mea electa 10/02/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, FP 146 10/16/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc "L'histoire de Babar": melologo 10/22/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc La dame d’André, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Dans l'herbe, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Il vole, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Violon, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Fleurs, from Fiançailles pour rire 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Le sommeil, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Quelle aventure!, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc La reine de coeur, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Ba, be, bi, bo, bu..., from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Les anges musiciens, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Le carafon, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Lune d’avril, from La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc La courte paille 11/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Three Novelettes for piano 02/28/2012 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Novelletta n. 3 04/05/2012 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Hommage à Edith Piaf 04/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Violin Sonata, FP 119 05/24/2012 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for clarinet and piano 1st mvt. Allegro tristamente 08/04/2012 Play
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, 2nd mvt. Romanza 08/04/2012 Play
Francis Poulenc Violin Sonata, FP 119 09/23/2012 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Cello and Piano 08/30/2011 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Hôtel, from Banalités 02/19/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Fagnes de Wallonie, from Banalités 02/19/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sanglots, from Banalités 02/19/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Voyage à Paris, from Banalités 02/19/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Violin Sonata, FP 119 07/21/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano 09/03/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Violin Sonata, FP 119 11/06/2013 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Allegro con Fuoco 01/02/2014 Play
Francis Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra 01/05/2014 Play Add to playlist
Francis Poulenc Three Novelettes for piano 04/01/2014 Play Add to playlist