Author Topic: Francis Poulenc  (Read 33166 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2010, 07:16:39 PM »
Thought I would bump this thread back up. It seems that Poulenc is seldom discussed and I don't really understand why this is. He wrote remarkable music. I particularly enjoy all the concerti and Les Biches is really good. I also enjoy the Stabat Mater and Gloria, which are two very underrated choral masterpieces in my opinon. His music seems the most approachable of Les Six.
 
Anyway, I just wanted to show some love for this great man's music.
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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #41 on: July 30, 2010, 01:18:53 AM »
Poulenc is one of my most favorite composers.  There is hardly a work of his that does not touch me and bring me great enjoyment.  The Aubade for piano and 18 instruments is one I often listen to, as well as the chamber music in general.  The Roge set is a disc I go back to about every month.  I agree about the choral writing - Penelope is a work that I have yet to listen to completely and is probably the only major work that I was late in discovering.

Thanks for bumping him.

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #42 on: July 30, 2010, 06:33:54 PM »
He started off as somewhat of an enfant terrible but ended up being firmly part of the establishment. I agree that Les Biches is great, it has this vigorous rhythmic bouyancy. Much of his music has this tounge in cheek character which is often refreshing, compared to the more serious utterances of the composers that had gone before. I would like to see his Organ Concerto done live, the colours he brings out of that instrument combined with the orchestra are amazing (& this coming from someone who usually prefers to hear the organ solo). I would really like to explore his choral music, especially the a capella works, since I have only heard the larger scale Gloria so far...

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2010, 07:17:46 AM »
I agree about the choral writing - Penelope is a work that I have yet to listen to completely and is probably the only major work that I was late in discovering.

I've never heard of a Penelope by Poulenc.  Are you thinking of the opera by Fauré?
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Scarpia

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2010, 09:36:01 AM »
Poulenc is one of my most favorite composers.  There is hardly a work of his that does not touch me and bring me great enjoyment.  The Aubade for piano and 18 instruments is one I often listen to, as well as the chamber music in general.  The Roge set is a disc I go back to about every month.  I agree about the choral writing - Penelope is a work that I have yet to listen to completely and is probably the only major work that I was late in discovering.

I would love to hear Penelope, but recordings choices are limited.  There is a Dutoit recording but my experience is that I find Dutoit recordings deathly dull.  I see another on the Gala label with Lloyd-Jones, but I have idea what to expect from it.  Anyone heard it?

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #45 on: July 31, 2010, 06:29:35 PM »
I've never heard of a Penelope by Poulenc.  Are you thinking of the opera by Fauré?

Yes, you're right - I got them mixed up. 

Quote
I would love to hear Penelope, but recordings choices are limited.

This is the one I've got:


But I have not listened to it yet.




Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #46 on: July 31, 2010, 06:34:34 PM »
Poulenc is one of my most favorite composers.  There is hardly a work of his that does not touch me and bring me great enjoyment.  The Aubade for piano and 18 instruments is one I often listen to, as well as the chamber music in general.  The Roge set is a disc I go back to about every month.  I agree about the choral writing - Penelope is a work that I have yet to listen to completely and is probably the only major work that I was late in discovering.

Thanks for bumping him.

He brings a lot of enjoyment to me as well. Didn't he compose a work just titled Sinfonietta? I think it's in the Dutoit box set. Anyway, this work is really enjoyable even though it's seldom heard or discussed when talking about his music.
 
For me, I haven't heard anybody top Dutoit's performances yet. I own almost every major Poulenc orchestral/choral recording available.
“It must be beautiful, or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #47 on: July 31, 2010, 06:36:52 PM »
I agree that Les Biches is great, it has this vigorous rhythmic bouyancy.

Which is one reason why I enjoy the work so much. I like strong rhythms.
“It must be beautiful, or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline Luke

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #48 on: July 31, 2010, 09:34:15 PM »

He brings a lot of enjoyment to me as well. Didn't he compose a work just titled Sinfonietta? I think it's in the Dutoit box set. Anyway, this work is really enjoyable even though it's seldom heard or discussed when talking about his music.

Yes it is, and yes it is - I love this piece, it's really Poulenc at his most Poulencish (even though there are adorable shades of Brahms, filtered through a Poulenc perspective, in the slow movement!).

But the Poulenc I return to again and again and again is the chamber music, above all those last, late sonatas. It's very hard to top these, really - they have Poulenc's typical potency, all those 'hooks', melodic, harmonic and rhythmic that expect with him, but they are so plangently expressive, so filled with something disturbing. Where was I reading somewhere recently Ned Rorem's view of French music (profoundly superficial) as compared to German (superficially profound)?* Absurdly generalising, hugely biased, perhaps - but a grain of truth in it: all the orchestral behemoths, exaggerated climaxes, extreme tempi, comple counterpoint and tortured chromaticism in the world can't create profundity if there's nothing really there. Poulenc needs none of these things in order to write music which is profoundly moving, in the late sonatas.

Interestingly, Martinu, subject of so much interesting chat at the moment, and really French in his aesthetic too, was explicitly opposed to exaggeration, dynamic forcing, over-emphasis - there's a fabulous long quotation of his, one of my very favourite bits of writing-on-music, which he wrote as a prgoramme note to go with the First Symphony, which I wish more composers....and more listeners....would take on board. I think it applies to Poulenc too, which is why I'm posting it here, but maybe I'll post it on the Martinu thread too; after all, I'd better make copying it out worth it!

Quote from: Martinu
The concept of elevated thought is certainly incontestable, the question really becoming what we consider elevate thought to be. What I maintain as my deepest conviction is the essential nobility of thoughts and things which are quite simple and which, not explained in high-sounding words and abstruse phrases, still hold an ethical and human significance. It is possible that my thoughts dwell upon objects or events of an almost everyday simplicity familiar to everyone and exclusively to certain great spirits. They may be so simple as to pass almost unnoticed but may still contain a deep meaning and afford great pleasure to humanity which, without them, would find life pale and flat. It could also be that these things permit us to go through life more easily, and, if one gives them due place, touch the highest plane of thought. One must also recognize the truth that a work so great and weighty as the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven could have been conceived only at a certain moment in history with the convergence of certain conditions, and could not have been written just by anyone and just at any time. A different point of view could falsify creative activity at the start, and could force the composer in a tragic and pathetic attitude, which would result in nothing else than a tour de force. It is possible a priori for intended tragedy and pathos to be not tragic at all, and every composer must be wary of false magnitude. Each composer and each creator of our epoch feels himself, to a certain extent, obligated to espouse sentiments of grandeur and tragedy. But this is no natural human feeling.

I have long pondered over the question, and should like here to note its consequences upon the course of music. The tendency, the desire to be greater than one is, can lead directly to an over-emphasis which, to say the least, is not essential music. Over-emphasis can certainly strain the limits of music and sound, and by sound I mean dynamics. One inevitably comes to the point where the actual instruments can no longer support the weight of an expression which exaggerates dynamism; they cannot support expression and still keep faith with certain aesthetic laws which we rightly prize. Even the natural capacity of our ears and nerves is strained. There is still another grave consequence which dynamics conceal: the tendency to mask a lack of real music and to replace it with noise. The result adds nothing to the true beauty of the art, for the sheer excitation of the nerves cannot be a just aesthetic goal. I am aware that this way of expression has its admirers, but I am not thereby convinced that this is the true realm of music, for my aim is something different. I know, too, that that is the way of many in our epoch, but neither can this justify for me the use of noise in music. Sheer orchestral power does not necessarily imply either grandeur or elevation.

If we look at the question from the point of view of technique, the consequences are characteristic. This dynamic urge necessarily displaces the balance of the basic funtion in the orchestra. The strings, which have traditionally furnished the basic element, can no longer do so, their fortissimo sonority being covered when the composer leans heavily upon the brass and percussion. In this way the whole conception of a work becomes 'brass', while we lose the charm, the amiability even the passion of the stringed instruments and their great variety of expression. We are aroused but not exactly happy, and that we must leave a concert in a state of fatigue is in itself not a favourable sign.


Sorry, that's alenghty quotation, but it's one that I didn't want to cut! And in a Poulenc thread too - I'd better post it on the Marinu thread now, also


*remembered - a typically great Scott Morrison review of a disc of Francaix at Amazon. Which I bought on the strength of the review...

Offline knight66

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #49 on: August 01, 2010, 12:56:05 AM »
Having read what is here, I have ordered Vol 1 in the Naxos series of complete chamber music. If I get along withit, I will work my way gradually through the remainder.

Thanks,

Mike
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Offline edward

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #50 on: August 01, 2010, 06:21:07 AM »
Having read what is here, I have ordered Vol 1 in the Naxos series of complete chamber music. If I get along withit, I will work my way gradually through the remainder.

Thanks,

Mike
I think you're in for a treat.

Honestly, I'm 1000% with Luke over the chamber music; the oboe and clarinet sonatas in particular, so expressive with simple means, and often so very emotionally ambivalent: it's striking to me how superbly calculated the finale of the clarinet sonata is--the high jinks bring the painful sadness around them into even sharper relief. (The flute sonata, though very fine, I think lacks a little in the emotional ambivalence department.)

It might be the string player in me, but I think the violin and cello sonatas are terribly underrated too. At least the violin sonata seems to get some attention, but the neglect of the cello sonata is a great shame IMO.
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Franco

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #51 on: August 01, 2010, 06:48:03 AM »
The songs (Mélodies) are one genre of Poulenc's oeuvre that has not been mentioned so far. 

I have a few good sets, most notable is this one on EMI, but I have others by a number of singers.  His songs are really quite wonderful and make up a signifianct proportion of his output.

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #52 on: August 01, 2010, 07:05:56 PM »
Having read what is here, I have ordered Vol 1 in the Naxos series of complete chamber music. If I get along withit, I will work my way gradually through the remainder.

Thanks,

Mike

You're in for an utter delight. I bought the full box set new for $3 last summer, and the wind sonatas - flute, oboe, clarinet - are simply divine. Edward's spot on about emotional ambivalence; the flute sonata is more "catchy," it's the only one from which I can remember a tune, and that might be the key to its immediate appeal and also to its remove from the other two. In the cases of all three solo instruments, Poulenc has a divine understanding of exactly how to make them sound their very best. A composer's composer. :)

Offline knight66

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #53 on: August 01, 2010, 09:23:26 PM »
Sometimes I wonder how I miss out on such good music for such a long time. I explore all the time, but.....where has this been for so many decades?

I listened to the samples and knew I would enjoy the disc, which I am eager to get hold of now, not merely 'interested' in.

Thanks for the advocacy folks.

Mike
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Scarpia

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #54 on: August 01, 2010, 09:43:27 PM »
I am lucky to have snatched up the four volumes of the EMI "Edition Centenaire" when they were available.  Now they're are OOP but used copies turn up, but sometimes unreasonably expensive.  EMI had some fairly definitive performances in their vault, and the volume of Chamber music was especially fine.   It is worth keeping an eye out for.  They looked like this:



A proper French orchestra (such as doesn't really exist anymore) can give Poulenc more sparkle.  I like this one



which actually sounded better on antique Decca vinyl than on the Testament CD reissue.  Poor Desormiere was a dashing character, but had some sort of stroke right after making this recording, a very sad state of affairs.

« Last Edit: August 01, 2010, 09:45:52 PM by Scarpia »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #55 on: August 02, 2010, 10:20:08 PM »
Don't know much Poulenc but I think that he wrote the best Organ Concerto - a work I find both entertaining and, at the end, moving.
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Offline just Jeff

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #56 on: August 02, 2010, 11:33:35 PM »

He brings a lot of enjoyment to me as well. Didn't he compose a work just titled Sinfonietta? I think it's in the Dutoit box set. Anyway, this work is really enjoyable even though it's seldom heard or discussed when talking about his music.
 
For me, I haven't heard anybody top Dutoit's performances yet. I own almost every major Poulenc orchestral/choral recording available.

This set has what some call "strong recordings" of his works:

http://www.amazon.com/Poulenc-Orchestral-Works-Francis/dp/B000024TDP

would you agree Georges Prêtre's EMI recordings are some of the better?
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #57 on: August 03, 2010, 06:43:08 AM »
This set has what some call "strong recordings" of his works:

http://www.amazon.com/Poulenc-Orchestral-Works-Francis/dp/B000024TDP

would you agree Georges Prêtre's EMI recordings are some of the better?

Haven't heard any of Pretre's recordings of Poulenc. One reason I was attracted to Dutoit's set, besides his excellent conducting, was because of Pascal Roge whose one of my favorite classical pianists.
“It must be beautiful, or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Scarpia

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #58 on: August 03, 2010, 06:50:23 AM »

Haven't heard any of Pretre's recordings of Poulenc. One reason I was attracted to Dutoit's set, besides his excellent conducting, was because of Pascal Roge whose one of my favorite classical pianists.

Roge notwithstanding, I find Dutoit's recordings rather colorless compared with some of the older ones which were made when French Orchestras has their own unique sound, such as the Desormiere I referred to above, Prêtre, etc. 

Franco

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Re: Francis Poulenc
« Reply #59 on: August 03, 2010, 06:52:00 AM »
The Poulenc recordings by Georges Prêtre were the first I heard, and he remains my favorite interpreter.  That EMI set is a must have for Poulenc fans, IMO.