Francis Poulenc

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Poulenc, Francis

(fräNsēs` po͞olăNk`), 1899–1963, French composer and pianist. He was one of Les SixSix, Les
, a short-lived group of six young early 20th-century French musicians. They were united by their adverse reactions to the extravagant impressionism of French composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel and the overwrought romanticism of Germans such as Richard
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, a group of French composers who subscribed to the aesthetic ideals of Erik SatieSatie, Erik
, 1866–1925, French composer, studied at the Paris Conservatory; pupil of Vincent D'Indy and Albert Roussel at the Schola Cantorum. He early realized that the romantic Wagnerian style was incompatible with the expression of French sensibility, and he developed
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. The spontaneity and lyricism 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). His operas are Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1947) and Dialogues des Carmélites (1957).

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.

WORKS

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.)

REFERENCES

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.]

I. A. MEDVEDEVA