72 Facts About Francis Poulenc


Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc was a French composer and pianist.

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Francis Poulenc's compositions include songs, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas, ballets, and orchestral concert music.

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Francis Poulenc made the acquaintance of Erik Satie, under whose tutelage he became one of a group of young composers known collectively as Les Six.

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Francis Poulenc was particularly celebrated for his performing partnerships with the baritone Pierre Bernac and the soprano Denise Duval.

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Francis Poulenc toured in Europe and America with both of them, and made a number of recordings as a pianist.

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Francis Poulenc was among the first composers to see the importance of the gramophone, and he recorded extensively from 1928 onwards.

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Francis Poulenc was born in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, the younger child and only son of Emile Francis Poulenc and his wife, Jenny, nee Royer.

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Emile Francis Poulenc was a joint owner of Francis Poulenc Freres, a successful manufacturer of pharmaceuticals .

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Francis Poulenc was a member of a pious Roman Catholic family from Espalion in the departement of Aveyron.

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Jenny Francis Poulenc was from a Parisian family with wide artistic interests.

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Francis Poulenc grew up in a musical household; his mother was a capable pianist, with a wide repertoire ranging from classical to less elevated works that gave him a lifelong taste for what he called "adorable bad music".

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Francis Poulenc took piano lessons from the age of five; when he was eight he first heard the music of Debussy and was fascinated by the originality of the sound.

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At his father's insistence, Francis Poulenc followed a conventional school career, studying at the Lycee Condorcet in Paris rather than at a music conservatory.

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Francis Poulenc was a most delightful man, a bizarre hidalgo with enormous moustachios, a flat-brimmed sombrero in the purest Spanish style, and button boots which he used to rap my shins when I didn't change the pedalling enough.

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When Francis Poulenc was sixteen his mother died; his father died two years later.

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Francis Poulenc encouraged his pupil to compose, and he later gave the premieres of three early Poulenc works.

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Auric, who was the same age as Francis Poulenc, was an early developer musically; by the time the two met, Auric's music had already been performed at important Parisian concert venues.

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Francis Poulenc described Satie's influence on him as "immediate and wide, on both the spiritual and musical planes".

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Francis Poulenc made his debut as a composer in 1917 with his Rapsodie negre, a ten-minute, five-movement piece for baritone and chamber group; it was dedicated to Satie and premiered at one of a series of concerts of new music run by the singer Jane Bathori.

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Francis Poulenc used one of the poems in two sections of the rhapsody.

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In 1917 Francis Poulenc got to know Ravel well enough to have serious discussions with him about music.

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Francis Poulenc told Satie of this unhappy encounter; Satie replied with a dismissive epithet for Ravel who, he said, talked "a load of rubbish".

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For many years Francis Poulenc was equivocal about Ravel's music, though always respecting him as a man.

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Ravel's modesty about his own music particularly appealed to Francis Poulenc, who sought throughout his life to follow Ravel's example.

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From January 1918 to January 1921 Francis Poulenc was a conscript in the French army in the last months of the First World War and the immediate post-war period.

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Francis Poulenc's duties allowed him time for composition; the Trois mouvements perpetuels for piano and the Sonata for Piano Duet were written at the piano of the local elementary school at Saint-Martin-sur-le-Pre, and he completed his first song cycle, Le bestiaire, setting poems by Apollinaire.

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At this stage in his career Francis Poulenc was conscious of his lack of academic musical training; the critic and biographer Jeremy Sams writes that it was the composer's good luck that the public mood was turning against late-romantic lushness in favour of the "freshness and insouciant charm" of his works, technically unsophisticated though they were.

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Satie was suspicious of music colleges, but Ravel advised Francis Poulenc to take composition lessons; Milhaud suggested the composer and teacher Charles Koechlin.

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The following year Francis Poulenc received a commission from Sergei Diaghilev for a full-length ballet score.

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Francis Poulenc decided that the theme would be a modern version of the classical French fete galante.

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Francis Poulenc heard her as the soloist in Falla's El retablo de maese Pedro, an early example of the use of a harpsichord in a modern work, and was immediately taken with the sound.

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Burton comments that, in the late 1920s, Francis Poulenc might have seemed to be in an enviable position: professionally successful and independently well-off, having inherited a substantial fortune from his father.

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Francis Poulenc bought a large country house, Le Grand Coteau, at Noizay, Indre-et-Loire, 140 miles south-west of Paris, where he retreated to compose in peaceful surroundings.

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Nevertheless, while this affair was in progress Francis Poulenc proposed marriage to his friend Raymonde Linossier.

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Francis Poulenc suffered the first of many periods of depression, which affected his ability to compose, and he was devastated in January 1930 when Linossier died suddenly at the age of 32.

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At the start of the decade, Francis Poulenc returned to writing songs, after a two-year break from doing so.

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The following year Francis Poulenc wrote three sets of songs, to words by Apollinaire and Max Jacob, some of which were serious in tone, and others reminiscent of his earlier light-hearted style, as were others of his works of the early 1930s.

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At about this time Francis Poulenc began a relationship with Raymond Destouches, a chauffeur; as with Chanlaire earlier, what began as a passionate affair changed into a deep and lasting friendship.

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Francis Poulenc's music was popular in America, seen by many as "the quintessence of French wit, elegance and high spirits".

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Francis Poulenc was briefly a soldier again during the Second World War; he was called up on 2 June 1940 and served in an anti-aircraft unit at Bordeaux.

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Francis Poulenc spent the summer of that year with family and friends at Brive-la-Gaillarde in south-central France.

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Francis Poulenc set to music verses by poets prominent in the French Resistance, including Aragon and Eluard.

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Francis Poulenc was a founder-member of the Front National which the Nazi authorities viewed with suspicion for its association with banned musicians such as Milhaud and Paul Hindemith.

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In Paris, Francis Poulenc completed his scores for L'Histoire de Babar, le petit elephant and his first opera, Les mamelles de Tiresias, a short opera bouffe of about an hour's duration.

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Shortly after the war, Francis Poulenc had a brief affair with a woman, Frederique Lebedeff, with whom he had a daughter, Marie-Ange, in 1946.

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Francis Poulenc defended Stravinsky and expressed incredulity that "in 1945 we are speaking as if the aesthetic of twelve tones is the only possible salvation for contemporary music".

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Those disagreeing with Francis Poulenc attempted to paint him as a relic of the pre-war era, frivolous and unprogressive.

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In 1948 Francis Poulenc made his first visit to the US, in a two-month concert tour with Bernac.

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Francis Poulenc returned there frequently until 1961, giving recitals with Bernac or Duval and as soloist in the world premiere of his Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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Francis Poulenc began the 1950s with a new partner in his private life, Lucien Roubert, a travelling salesman.

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Professionally Francis Poulenc was productive, writing a seven-song cycle setting poems by Eluard, La Fraicheur et le feu, and the Stabat Mater, in memory of the painter Christian Berard, composed in 1950 and premiered the following year.

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In 1953, Francis Poulenc was offered a commission by La Scala and the Milanese publisher Casa Ricordi for a ballet.

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Francis Poulenc considered the story of St Margaret of Cortona but found a dance version of her life impracticable.

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Francis Poulenc preferred to write an opera on a religious theme; Ricordi suggested Dialogues des Carmelites, an unfilmed screenplay by Georges Bernanos.

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Francis Poulenc found it "such a moving and noble work", ideal for his libretto, and he began composition in August 1953.

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Francis Poulenc learned of a dispute between Bernanos's estate and the writer Emmet Lavery, who held the rights to theatrical adaptations of Le Fort's novel; this caused Poulenc to stop work on his opera.

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At around this time Francis Poulenc began his last romantic relationship, with Louis Gautier, a former soldier; they remained partners to the end of Francis Poulenc's life.

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In 1958 Francis Poulenc embarked on a collaboration with his old friend Cocteau, in an operatic version of the latter's 1930 monodrama La Voix humaine.

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Francis Poulenc was buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, alongside his family.

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Francis Poulenc said that he was not inventive in his harmonic language.

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Francis Poulenc said that it was "on the outskirts" of his religious music, and there are passages that draw on the church music of Bach, though there are interludes in breezy popular style.

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In Henri Hell's view, Francis Poulenc's piano writing can be divided into the percussive and the gentler style reminiscent of the harpsichord.

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Whether or not Francis Poulenc originally conceived them as an integral set, he gave the eighth the title "To serve as Coda for the Cycle" .

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Pieces Francis Poulenc found merely tolerable were all early works: Trois mouvements perpetuels dates from 1919, the Suite in C from 1920 and the Trois pieces from 1928.

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Commentators including Hell, Schmidt and Francis Poulenc himself have regarded it, and to some extent the cello sonata, as less effective than those for wind.

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Francis Poulenc composed songs throughout his career, and his output in the genre is extensive.

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Francis Poulenc turned to opera only in the latter half of his career.

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Francis Poulenc attributed this to the need for maturity before tackling the subjects he chose to set.

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Francis Poulenc was among the composers who recognised in the 1920s the important role that the gramophone would play in the promotion of music.

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Francis Poulenc made numerous recordings, mainly for the French division of EMI.

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Francis Poulenc played the piano part in recordings of his Babar the Elephant with Pierre Fresnay and Noel Coward as narrators.

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Francis Poulenc's language speaks clearly, directly and humanely to every generation.

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