Who is Francis Poulenc?
Francis Poulenc was a fantastic pianist and composer. Poulenc never took formal classes in composition and learned the subject mostly on his own. Poulenc said, “Mon canon, c’est l’instinct”, which meant, “My model is my instinct”; which was exactly how he composed his music. He was known to be a very eccentric and completely unconventional man, and these traits showed in the music he composed. His music was different from those around him at the time and he was also a fantastic songwriter. Poulenc was part of the ‘Les Six’, which was a name given by a critic to a set of six different composers who worked in Montparnasse in the 1920s. Originally, his music was fun and light hearted but, after he witnessed the death of a friend, his work began to get more serious with a lot of brevity. He was considered as one of the most important composers of the pre-World War 2 era. He composed his music throughout the war and included many patriotic themes in his works.
Francis Poulenc Biography detail
Early Life And Childhood
Francis Poulenc was born in Paris on 7 January, 1899. He was born into a wealthy household. His father and two brothers headed a pharmaceutical plant. Poulenc’s mother, Jenny, was the one who got Poulenc interested in music. Jenny used to sing and was an amateur pianist herself. She wanted her son to take piano lessons and hence, taught him to play the piano. However, Poulenc’s father was more interested in his academics and so Poulenc never attended any music lessons and never attended the conservatory. Luckily for Poulenc, he lived in Paris which was the hub of ‘avant-garde’ movements of different forms of arts and unique artists. His family and friends favored the artists and their creations that were ahead of his time. His uncle even took him to watch plays. Francis Poulenc was orphaned when he was a teenager and his mother’s friend, who had introduced him to the pianist Ricardo Viñes, served as Poulenc’s mentor during 1914-17.
Career And Work
A friend of Poulenc’s introduced him to the ‘Maison des Amis des Livres’ where he met radical, far-reaching poets like Max Jacob and Paul Éluard. It was from here that Poulenc set a lot of his music in accordance to the poems written by these celebrities. In 1917, one of Poulenc’s first works, that has managed to survive to date, was heard by Stravinsky, who later had this particular work of Poulenc’s, the ‘Rapsodie Nègre’published in London. Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet, inspired Poulenc’s ‘Le bestiaire, ou Le cortège d'Orphée’which was a cycle of melodies. In 1918, Poulenc premiered his Sonata for ‘Piano Four Hands’ along with his mentor’s pupil, Marcelle Meyer. During 1917-20, Poulenc gave many performances of his pieces including the ‘Sonata for Two Clarinets’ and the ‘Trois Movements Perpétuels’at Émile Lejeune's Montparnasse studio. This is where he met other composers and formed a loose-knit group known as the ‘Les Six’.
The 1920’s were eventful for Poulenc. He composed the ‘Valse en utfor ‘L’album des six’ in 1920 and a small piece for ‘Les mariés de la tour Eiffel’. Between the years 1921-25, Poulenc learnt composition under Charles Koechlin; this was his first ever formal training as such. Poulenc’s music styles were greatly influenced by Debussy, Stravinsky, Chabrier and Satie. He incorporated their frivolous and aesthetic styles into his compositions.
Poulenc met Pierre Bernac in 1926, and the two became extremely close friends. Many of the melodies and chansons by Poulenc were composed for Bernac. Poulenc composed ‘Concert champêtre’ in 1928, which was commissioned by Wanda Landowska. This particular piece was dedicated to Richard Chanlaire, the painter, who was also Poulenc’s lover. In the same year, Poulenc also recorded ‘Trois mouvements perpétuels’and the ‘Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon’ and published his musical reviews in Les Art Phoniques.
In 1935, Poulenc went on a pilgrimage to Rocamadour after the death of several of his friends. This pilgrimage marked Poulenc’s entry into a religious reawakening. After this, a majority of his pieces, like the ‘Litanies à la viergenoire’and ‘Tel jour, telle nuit’, showed the more serious side of his music. Poulenc joined the ‘Comité de Front National des Musiciens’ in 1941 and the next year, he composed a humorous ballet, ‘Les animaux modèles’,wherein he used the theme of a French patriotic song. In 1945, the cantata ‘Figure humaine’, set to the poems of Paul Éluard, was created along with ‘L’histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant’ and ‘Les mamelles de Tirésias’. Poulenc continued composing and worked on various pieces. He also composed music for films like ‘La Duchesse de Langeais’, ‘Le voyageur sans baggage’ etc and even became a ‘radio host’ for the ‘À bâtons rompus’ where he played a diverse variety of music.
In 1948, Poulenc gave the first of his many concerts in the United States, along with his friend, Bernac. He started work on his opera ‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ in 1953, which was based on a story written by George Bernanos. This was performed in Italian in 1957. He composed ‘La voix humaine’ in 1958, which was a tragedy written for his lover Louis Gautier. In 1962, he composed the ‘Sept répons des ténèbres’which was performed posthumously, in 1963. Gabriel Tachhino was Poulenc’s only student who performed and recorded all his music.
Poulenc was open about his homosexuality and his first and only well-known lover was a painter called, Richard Chanlaire to whom he dedicated the ‘Concert champêtre’. When a close friend, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, passed away, Poulenc was deeply affected and visited Racomadour which marked a turning point for his career and his compositions took a turn towards spirituality. Poulenc was unafraid of professing his love to several artists and people during the course of his life. However, sadness struck his life several times that led him to change the course and the soul of his work.
Death And Legacy
Poulenc passed away on 30 January, 1963 at his home, due to a heart attack. His funeral was simple and melodies by ‘Bach’ were played in his fond memory. He was buried at Père Lachaise, Paris. Various festivals such as ‘Academie Poulen de Tours’, ‘Journee de Bagnols-en-Foret’ and ‘Anost’ celebrated his music on a wide scale, annually. Such was the impact of this great composer, who gave us a potpourri of lyrical melodies and other popular genres that, it defined the course of complex music for years to come.
Frequently asked questions about Francis Poulenc
What is Francis Poulenc birthday?
Francis Poulenc was born at January 7, 1899
Where is Francis Poulenc's birth place?
Francis Poulenc was born in Paris
What is Francis Poulenc nationalities?
Francis Poulenc's nationalities is French
Who is Francis Poulenc's father?
Francis Poulenc's father is Émile Poulenc
Who is Francis Poulenc's mother?
Francis Poulenc's mother is Jenny Royer
What is Francis Poulenc's sun sign?
Francis Poulenc is Capricorn
When was Francis Poulenc died?
Francis Poulenc was died at January 30, 1963
Where was Francis Poulenc died?
Francis Poulenc was died in Paris
Which age was Francis Poulenc died?
Francis Poulenc was died at age 64