Francis Poulenc

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Related to Francis Poulenc: George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein

Poulenc, Francis

Poulenc, Francis (fräNsēsˈ po͞olăNkˈ), 1899–1963, French composer and pianist. He was one of Les Six, a group of French composers who subscribed to the aesthetic ideals of Erik Satie, whose influence he encountered in his teens. The spontaneity, lyricism, and refined quality of Poulenc's style are best adapted to small forms—piano pieces such as Mouvements perpétuels (1918) and songs. Also outstanding are the ballet Les Biches (1924); Concert Champêtre (1929), for harpsichord and orchestra; the Mass in G (1937), for chorus and organ; Litanies à la Vierge noire (1936), for women's choir and organ; the Intermezzo in A Flat Major (1944), for piano; and the Concerto in G Minor for organ, strings, and percussion (1938). He was particularly gifted in setting sacred and secular texts. His operas are Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1947) and Dialogues des Carmélites (1957).


See biographies by G. Johnson (2020) and R. Nichols (2020).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Poulenc, Francis


Born Jan. 7, 1899, in Paris; died there Jan. 30,1963. French composer.

Poulenc, who studied piano with R. Viñes and composition with C. Koechlin, became a member of the group known as Les Six in 1920. Steeped in classical and contemporary French culture, he was influenced by E. Chabrier, I. F. Stravinsky, E. Satie, C. Debussy, and M. Ravel.

Among Poulenc’s most important works are his vocal and stage compositions: the comic opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias (based on G. Apollinaire’s play, 1944), the tragic opera Les Dialogues des Carmélites (based on G. Bernanos’ work, 1953–56), and the lyrical, psychological one-act opera La Voix humaine (based on J. Cocteau’s works, 1958). Also among his most outstanding works are his cantatas, including Figure humaine, a patriotic composition for unaccompanied double chorus, with a text by P. Eluard (1943). The work was written and published clandestinely during the fascist occupation. Poulenc’s most outstanding compositions also include choral works (for example, Seven Songs [Apollinaire and Eluard], 1936, and French Songs, 1945) and art songs with verses by Apollinaire, Eluard, R. Desnos, and L. Aragon. Poulenc also wrote ballets, piano pieces, chamber instrumental works, and music for the theater and motion pictures.

Poulenc, whose music is highly melodic, is known in France as the French Schubert, because of the richness and beauty of his cantilenas. Drawing on the traditions of the French folk song, he developed the principles of Debussy’s musical prosody and M. P. Mussorgsky’s vocal declamatory methods.


Entretiens avec Claude Rostand. Paris [1954].
Moi et mes amis. Paris [1963].
Pis’ma. Edited, with an introduction and commentary by G. Filenko. Leningrad-Moscow, 1970. (Translated from French.)


Medvedeva, I. A. Fransis Pulenk. Moscow, 1969.
Shneerson, G. M. Frantsuzskaia muzyka XX v., 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Hell, H. Francis Poulenc, musicien français. Paris [1958].
Roy, J. Francis Poulenc. [Paris, 1964.]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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ed., Francis Poulenc: Correspondance 1910-1963 (Paris: Fayart, 1994),
This volume appears on the heels of the fiftieth anniversary of Francis Poulenc's death (1899-1963), an occasion that was marked in 2013 with numerous concerts and productions on both sides of the Atlantic and academic conferences in Paris and in Keele, U.K.
- Francis Poulenc Ave Maria (from Dialogues of the Carmelites)
Every one of these suggested meanings springing from specific aspects of the opera could be developed into a full essay outside the parameters of my purpose here, but within my confines they work together to make clear the profane nature of the opera and in so doing fulfill Poulenc's most cherished dream: "If my tomb could be inscribed: 'Here lies Francis Poulenc, the musician of Apollinaire and Eluard,' I would consider that my greatest claim to fame." (5) Apollinaire died young--just one year after his drama had been mounted in Montmartre--and Eluard, the foremost French surrealist poet of World War II, then became Poulenc's principal source of song texts.
The group, made up of George Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre, influenced the development of modern classical music and is credited with bringing outsider and popular themes into the genre.
The French composers known as 'Les Six', including Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc, produced a work, Les marius de la Tour Eiffel (1921), in which two voices representing gramophones describe a series of mimed dramas, including a hunter in pursuit of an ostrich, a lion and a seaside bather.
For Silvestrov, this beauty can be found in the sacred, and he is in rarified, if sparse, company in his aesthetic: in the late twentieth century there were only a few Western musicians of note still concerned with sacred music, among them Olivier Messiaen, Francis Poulenc, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
Concerto in D major for two Pianos and Orchestra by Francis Poulenc was the highlight of the event.
His mainstream interests were represented by books on music and society as well as monographs such as Bach and the Dance of God (1980), Beethoven and the Voice of God (1983), Vaughan Williams and the Vision of Albion (1989), Percy Grainger (1992) and Francis Poulenc (1993) as well as studies of less familiar figures such as Frederic Mompou (1989).
The title stems from an anecdote about the gay composer Francis Poulenc that appeals to Bailey's "sense of what is right and wrong": "[Poulenc] confessed to his priest that he'd had a sexual encounter in a park with a stranger, and the priest--exasperated--stopped him short with the admonition: 'Stop wasting our time.
Rouget has sensibly chosen to organize the enormous section on focused studies by dividing these into four large subsections: (1) Ronsard's poetry, further subdivided into the twelve more-or-less generic categories corresponding to the eleven sections of the 1584 CEuvres and the "derniers vers"; (2) Ronsard's prose and Latin works; (3) poetry and music, including not only scholarship but also a discography of musical settings by composers from Clement Jannequin to Francis Poulenc; (4) reception.
Tentatively titled "Send," it will begin perfs March 4, playing on a double bill with Francis Poulenc's 1959 one-person opera "La Voix Humaine" (The Human Voice), based on Jean Cocteau's play about a woman who breaks up with her lover over the telephone.