Francis Poulenc

Carl Schmidt

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Francis Poulenc

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Francis Poulenc (b. 7 January 1899–d. 30 January 1963) is the most frequently performed, recorded, and studied member of the French group that, in 1920, critic Henri Collet dubbed Les Six (Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre, and Poulenc). Born into a middle-class family living in Paris, Poulenc’s father was involved with a chemical company and his mother was an amateur pianist of considerable accomplishment. Poulenc’s career was primarily devoted to composition, but it also included important work as a pianist and accompanist. From the late 1920s, he wrote music predominantly at his Touraine estate Le grand coteau (The large hill) in Noizay, while enjoying the Parisian cultural scene and maintaining an apartment near the Luxembourg Gardens from the late 1940s. In the 1930s he formed a duo with the baritone Pierre Bernac that performed for a quarter century, and he accompanied and/or recorded with a number of other singers, including Rose Dercourt, Denise Duval, Suzanne Peignot, Gérard Souzay, Geneviève Touraine, and Lucienne Tragin, with the cellist Pierre Fournier and the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, or with ad hoc chamber groups in Europe and North America. He frequently played as soloist in his Concerto in D Minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra with Jacques Février, and less frequently he played his Aubade, Concert champêtre, or Piano Concerto. Virtually all of his music has been published and recorded. Known as one of the greatest composers of art songs of the 20th century, Poulenc also left an impressive legacy of a cappella or accompanied choral works, popular sonatas for wind instruments, and three operas, including Dialogues des Carmélites, which continues to be performed at leading theaters around the world. A prolific correspondent, he wrote more than fifty articles, prefaces, and books, made a number of audio recordings beginning in 1930, and is memorialized in several video recordings. In the last decade, Poulenc has been the object of renewed scholarly interest, and he is well on the way to fulfilling Roland Gelatt’s astute prediction, “I must still express my growing conviction that the name of Francis Poulenc will appear on concert programs a century hence” (Saturday Review, 29 January 1950).

Article.  9771 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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