Commentaire français – English Commentary follows after
Our homage series concludes today with a montage of works by composer Francis Poulenc, who left us in 1963. Poulenc stands out amongst his peers not only as a brilliant composer and pianist, but also for his carefree life style and for his late re-embracing of faith and spirituality; the latter being aptly demonstrated by his opera Dialogues of the Carmelites and his many sacred works for a capella chorus and larger choral works with orchestra.
Music was not the Poulenc family business - pharmaceuticals was - but the well-off Poulenc explored music as a hobby at first and (later uder the tutilage of Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes) as an all-consuming passion.
Very early on, Poulenc hooked up with a group of up-and-coming composers that author Jean Cocteau would champion under "Les Six" (a kind of thinly-veiled homage to the Russian Mighty Handful). Though their music wasn't strictly nationalistic, it was distinctive and indicative of their shared carefree lifestyle. Les Biches (music for a Diaghilev prroduction) is indicative of the style of the Six, both in foirm and subject matter - it is a reference to the frivolous behaviour of the Regal Court of France of a long-gone era.
As a pianist, Poulenc was more than serviceable. This link showcases Poulenc playing the music of Erik Satie. However, as a piano composer, Poulenc's exuberant and lively style couldn't be further from the music of his at time lugubre countryman. The Villageoises are subtitled "children's pieces" but they are by no means child's play. As for the sonata for piano four hands it is one of two sonatas Poulenc wrote for duo pianists.
The closest thing Poulenc wrote to a Symphony is his SInfonietta, a post-WWII work composed as a salute to Mozart and Haydn, though in a language neither would have necessarily recognized. To close, I chose one of Poulenc's most ambitious chamber works, scored for wind sextet and piano.
I think you will love this music too!