Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963) was born in Paris. His mother was an amateur pianist, who first taught him to play piano. He was introduced to the music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel by a Spanish pianist friend, Riccardi Viñes. He also was introduced to a bookshop, the Maison des Amis des Livres, where, he met a number of avant-garde poets, whose poetry became a source of lyrics for various of his songs. In those early years, he was heavily influenced by the music of Debussy, Satie, Chabrie and Stravinsky, who, at that time, were considered among the members of “The Six,” a group of then popular French and French influenced composers. Stravinsky became a champion of Poulenc’s early music.
Seeking solace after the tragic deaths of a number of his friends, including fellow composer, Pierre- Octave Ferroud, in 1935, he retreated to a monastic Benedictine community, high in the mountains overlooking a tributary of the River Dordogne. There he had a life-changing spiritual experience, which led to his composition of a number of sacred choral works in a more mature, less flippant style.
During the Second World War, he joined the “Comité de Front National des Musiciens,” associated with the French Communist Party, and the French Resistance. He wrote for the piano, opera, ballet, orchestra, and instrumental chamber music (he was especially fond of wind instruments), including music for two pianos, film music, song cycles for solo voice, chansons, cantatas and other religious music.
Composers of the early 20th Century rebelled against what was considered to be the culmination and excesses of traditional, or “classical” music in late Romanticism, resulting in several waves anarchical muical experiments, including atonalism, aleatoric (or chance) music, music for “prepared piano” of John Cage (in which the strings of the piano are prepared with various devices to alter the normal, hammer driven, sounds, and the strings were activated by direct contact with fingers or other objects, resulting, toward the end Poulenc’s life, in further reaction to the resulting musical chaos in Minimalism. Through that time, Poulenc’s music remained fundamentally tonal, although he did experiment with some later works in 12-tone rows, or atonalism. Nonetheless, lyricism remained a mark of his music.
Gloria – IV. Domine fili
UWL Choral Union
Qui Sedes Ad Dexteram Patris
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