Author Topic: Francis Poulenc  (Read 33127 times)

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Boris_G

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Francis Poulenc
« on: July 16, 2007, 11:01:59 AM »
With the recent death of Regine Crespin, Poulenc has been much in the air. On BBC Radio 4 recently they had a small item about her, and virtually all the extracts were from works by Poulenc - including a thrilling 'Paradisi Gloria' extract from Stabat mater.

But what I love about Poulenc above all is his insoucient moments of light-headed charm; light-headed and yet never quite carefree in songs like 'Les Gars Qui Vont A La Fete' (sorry - I don't know how to do accents on my PC). Even that languid masterpiece from Banalites, 'Hotel', has a wistful flavour, an awareness of time flowing past.

So I thought it's about time he had a thread of his own. Any favourites of his, anyone?

Offline MishaK

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2007, 11:09:35 AM »
So I thought it's about time he had a thread of his own. Any favourites of his, anyone?

His concerto for two pianos is essential listening.

Boris_G

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2007, 11:12:37 AM »
His concerto for two pianos is essential listening.

Love it...but essential? Why?

Scriptavolant

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2007, 11:19:50 AM »
I've listened to the Chamber Music CD on Decca (Performers: Roge, Gallois, Bourge, Portal) a lot of times. My preference goes toward the Sonata for clarinet and piano, and the one for flute and piano, but didn't really deepen my knowledge of this composer, even though I was planning to purchase the entire chamber music set on Naxos and some recording of L'Histoire de Babar. A pianist friend of mine commented this last work on a radio broadcast some time ago and strongly recommended it.

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2007, 11:47:00 AM »
Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos was the first piece of non-worded music I ever heard that made me laugh out loud. The first movement is hilarious! Poulenc fans in the past got mad at me for saying that, but I can't help it. The first movement is just magnificent. I might be the only person on Earth who takes it that way. I never read or learned anything about the piece except that someone suggested it to me, knowing that I liked very little 20th century orchestral music, and to this day I honestly have no clue how other people perceive it. But I love laughing, so Poulenc gets high marks. I'm not laughing at it, as if I think it's pathetic; quite the contrary, it sounds like he's having fun with Vivaldi and who knows what else, and I think it's brilliant. Other than by Rachmaninov (the you-know-whats), I have yet to find any other concerto from the entire 20th century that I like.

This is my favourite Poulenc CD, as it contains the 3 works of his that have parts that I like:

http://www.amazon.com/Poulenc-Concerto-Pianos-Sonata-Quintet/dp/B000003YQU

Anyways, just wanted to plug that CD. Actual Poulenc fans might not like it, though, I don't know how they rate the performances of those pieces. I just found it a nice way to discover Poulenc. Sadly, it's no longer in print, and the used copies I see on amazon.com are US$33+. No way! But if you find it somewheres at a reasonable price, and you don't know Poulenc, it's worth a try!

Boris_G

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2007, 11:53:52 AM »
Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos was the first piece of non-worded music I ever heard that made me laugh out loud. The first movement is hilarious! Poulenc fans in the past got mad at me for saying that, but I can't help it. The first movement is just magnificent. I might be the only person on Earth who takes it that way. I never read or learned anything about the piece except that someone suggested it to me, knowing that I liked very little 20th century orchestral music, and to this day I honestly have no clue how other people perceive it. But I love laughing, so Poulenc gets high marks. I'm not laughing at it, as if I think it's pathetic; quite the contrary, it sounds like he's having fun with Vivaldi and who knows what else, and I think it's brilliant. Other than by Rachmaninov (the you-know-whats), I have yet to find any other concerto from the entire 20th century that I like.

This is my favourite Poulenc CD, as it contains the 3 works of his that have parts that I like:

http://www.amazon.com/Poulenc-Concerto-Pianos-Sonata-Quintet/dp/B000003YQU

Anyways, just wanted to plug that CD. Actual Poulenc fans might not like it, though, I don't know how they rate the performances of those pieces. I just found it a nice way to discover Poulenc. Sadly, it's no longer in print, and the used copies I see on amazon.com are US$33+. No way! But if you find it somewheres at a reasonable price, and you don't know Poulenc, it's worth a try!

I'm sure your reaction to Francis's Concerto for Two Pianos is spot on. It's mad cap comedy, peppered with references to Mozart one moment, then what sounds like music hall the next, with the occasional whiff of something magical (like the evocation of Javanese gamelan) or wistful (parts of the second and third movements).

Mark

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2007, 12:05:16 PM »
If you like Poulenc's songs, there are plenty on this disc, and all deliciously performed:


Drasko

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2007, 12:19:25 PM »
I particularly like the wind/piano sonatas (clarinet, flute, oboe), and just getting acquainted with Les Mamelles ... fabulous

Here is whole Concerto for two pianos with Fevrier and composer on youtube

Francis Poulenc - Concerto for two Pianos

Poulenc / Fevrier / ONdF / Pretre

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC4kJiTHTtQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2B5xTGInzI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7j7Vss8BSI

Offline Brewski

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2007, 12:19:56 PM »
Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos was the first piece of non-worded music I ever heard that made me laugh out loud. The first movement is hilarious! Poulenc fans in the past got mad at me for saying that, but I can't help it. The first movement is just magnificent. I might be the only person on Earth who takes it that way. I never read or learned anything about the piece except that someone suggested it to me, knowing that I liked very little 20th century orchestral music, and to this day I honestly have no clue how other people perceive it.

It is a very amusing piece, and I can well imagine laughter during it!  I haven't heard the recording you mention, but I can recommend this one, with the Labèque sisters, whom I have also heard live in this -- totally delightful.



Just saw Mark's post with that Lynne Dawson CD (and with Stuart Drake, whom I also like a lot).  I have only heard her in the Blomstedt/SFO Carmina Burana, in which she sounds terrific.

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pjme

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2007, 12:24:10 PM »
Poulenc was one of the first composers I wanted to know more of. I got lots of LP's from the library : concerto for two pianos, the clarinet sonata, the sextet, Gloria and Stabat mater ( -Paradisi gloria!!!!), that strange & haunting violinsonata, funny trifles like the sonata for piano 4 hands, Le bal masqué or Les mamelles de Thirésias. The slow movement of the Symphonietta is a beauty and so is the Pastourelle from l'Eventail de Jeanne!

He made discovering music easy....



Norseman

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2007, 12:40:09 PM »
The concerto for two pianos is great fun, but let's not totally forget his 'single piano' concerto. It might be a little less 'wild', but it's full of beautiful and fun tunes, and has that same almost fragmented, 'you-never-know-what's-going-to-happen' joking around (listen for instance to the crazy ending of the first movement and most of the last movement)

I also like a lot of his delightfully unpretencious solo piano works, like the Suite pour piano and Suite Francais (also scored for what I believe is wind band and harpsichord) Some of his stuff is a little too easy and kitschy even for me, though, and sometimes I can get a little tired of certain clichés of his, things that just sound 'too Poulenc', once you get to know him a little.. But then there's the other side of his famous Janus-face; the church music. Apart from the Gloria, Stabat Mater and Salve Regina, I know he has motets, a mass etc that might be worth checking out..

Offline edward

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2007, 02:19:27 PM »
Yes, the two-piano concerto is fun, and Poulence's hugely underrated as a choral writer.

My favourite works are the late sonatas, though: the clarinet and oboe sonatas have a remarkable emotional world (the laughter failing to disguise the sorrow beneath), and the two-piano sonata is magnificent.
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Offline aquablob

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2007, 02:55:28 PM »
and the two-piano sonata is magnificent.

A friend of mine and I performed this a year or two ago... great fun!

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2007, 03:56:35 PM »
Dialogues des Carmélites, which features Crespin in Pierre Dervaux' 1958 EMI recording, is probably (to me, anyway) one of the great 20th century operas. I won't spoil the plot, especially since it makes the famous "Salve Regina" at the end that much more moving, but I will say that the story of a community of nuns in Revolutionary France is pretty darned compelling. Poulenc didn't write an opera with many arias and the like, sticking with a lyrical Sprechgesang; the way, too, he wove the music into the story is downright Wagnerian at times.

In any event, it is surely worth a spin.

Offline aquablob

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2007, 05:27:25 PM »
Dialogues des Carmélites, which features Crespin in Pierre Dervaux' 1958 EMI recording, is probably (to me, anyway) one of the great 20th century operas. I won't spoil the plot, especially since it makes the famous "Salve Regina" at the end that much more moving, but I will say that the story of a community of nuns in Revolutionary France is pretty darned compelling. Poulenc didn't write an opera with many arias and the like, sticking with a lyrical Sprechgesang; the way, too, he wove the music into the story is downright Wagnerian at times.

In any event, it is surely worth a spin.

Agreed. It is quite powerful.

Mark G. Simon

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2007, 05:40:53 PM »
One of Poulenc's earliest compositions (ca. 1919) is a sonata for two clarinets, one in Bb and the other in A. The music is almost entirely bitonal. The music is of moderate difficulty for the most part, but here and there are some really awkward figures which require intense practice. It's a fun piece.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2007, 11:54:08 PM »
Agree with Edward about the late chamber music. It's very special stuff indeed, intensely moving. As with so many composers, its all about the chamber music and the songs for me - and though I don't know Mark's rec. I'd suggest you can't do better either musically or financially than this complete set, with stellar performances (including definitive ones with Poulenc at the piano):



Other works I can't recommend highly enough - the Stabat Mater, the Gloria and the Litanies a la Vierge Noire (a neglected masterpiece); the Sinfonietta (Poulenc meets Brahms at times!); the Harpsichord Concerto; and that unique opera La voix humaine. But it's an easily extendable list...

Mark

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2007, 11:56:52 PM »
Rats! Luke, I let that set you've pictured slip through my fingers fairly recently. It (along with several other sets from the same series), was in a charity shop, along with a 3-CD set from Virgin Classics. Guess which one I picked? ::)

lukeottevanger

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2007, 12:03:59 AM »
Rats! Luke, I let that set you've pictured slip through my fingers fairly recently. It (along with several other sets from the same series), was in a charity shop, along with a 3-CD set from Virgin Classics. Guess which one I picked? ::)

 :( And the marketplace price at Amazon is a bit steeper now than it was when I bought this set a few months back. Still well worth it, though. This one is coming on holiday to France with me this year.... ;D

Hector

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2007, 04:55:04 AM »
Dialogues des Carmélites, which features Crespin in Pierre Dervaux' 1958 EMI recording, is probably (to me, anyway) one of the great 20th century operas. I won't spoil the plot, especially since it makes the famous "Salve Regina" at the end that much more moving, but I will say that the story of a community of nuns in Revolutionary France is pretty darned compelling. Poulenc didn't write an opera with many arias and the like, sticking with a lyrical Sprechgesang; the way, too, he wove the music into the story is downright Wagnerian at times.

In any event, it is surely worth a spin.

I won't spoil the plot...er, because there is no way we are going to find out each nun gets the chop at the end even by Googling it?

It is, without doubt, one of the great post-war operas, up there with Britten, Birtwistle and Zimmermann, for example.