Francis Poulenc

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Born: 8 January 1899

Died: 30 January 1963

Biography: Poulenc was born in Paris in 1899. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play, and music formed a part of family life. As he was a capable pianist, the keyboard dominated much of his early compositions. He also, throughout his career, borrowed from his own compositions as well as those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Camille Saint-Saëns. Later in his life, the loss of some close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscovery of the Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone.

Poulenc was a member of Les Six, a group of young French composers, Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre, who also had links with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau. He embraced the Dada movement's techniques, creating melodies that would have challenged what was considered appropriate for Parisian music halls. He was already identified with this group before he undertook his first formal musical training, with Charles Koechlin in 1921.

Poulenc was a featured pianist in several recordings, including some of his songs (with Pierre Bernac) (recorded in 1947) 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 Nr. 1 (1918) is used in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948).

Among Poulenc's last series of major works is a series of works 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.

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List of choral works

  • Le Bestiaire (ou Cortège d’Orphée) (S) (1920) - Song Cycle
  1. Le Dromadaire
  2. La Chèvre du Thibet
  3. La Sauterelle
  4. Le Dauphin
  5. L'Écrevisse
  6. La Carpe
  • Chanson à boire (TTBB) (1922)
  • Sept chansons (SATB) (1936)
  • Litanies à la vierge noire (SSA, org) (1936), orchestrated (1947)
  • Petites voix (SSA) (1936)
  • Mass in G (SATB div) (1937)
  • Sécheresses (chorus, orchestra) (1937)
  • Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence (SATB div): "Vinea mea electa", (1938); "Tenebrae factae sunt", (1938); "Tristis est anima mea", (1938); "Timor et tremor", (1939)
  • Exultate Deo (SATB) (1941)
  • Salve regina (SATB) (1941)
  • Figure humaine (12 voices) (1943)
  • Un soir de neige (6 voices) (1944)
  • Chansons françaises: "Margoton va t'a l'iau", (SATB) (1945); "La belle se sied au pied de la tour" (SATBarB) (1945); "Pilons l'orge" (SATBarB) (1945); "Clic, clac, dansez sabots" (TBB) (1945); "C'est la petit' fill' du prince" (SATBarB) (1946); "La belle si nous étions" (TBB) (1946); "Ah! Mon beau laboureur" (SATB) (1945); "Les tisserands" (SATBarB) (1946)
  • Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Men's chorus) (1948)
  • Stabat Mater (Soprano solo, SATB divisi, orchestra) (1950)
  • Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël (SATB div.): "O magnum mysterium" (1952); "Quem vidistis pastores?" (1951); "Videntes stellam" (1951); "Hodie Christus natus est" (1952)
  • Ave verum corpus (SMezA) (1952)
  • Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue (Men's Chorus): "O Jésu perpetua lux" (1957); "O proles hispaniae" (1958); "Laus regi plena gaudio" (1959); "Si quaeris" (1959)
  • Gloria (Soprano solo, SATB divisi, orchestra) (1959)
  • Sept répons des ténèbres (Child Soprano, Men's Chorus, Children's Chorus, orchestra (1961-2)

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