Francis Poulenc


French composer and pianist Francis Poulenc was born in 1899 in Paris. He grew up listening to Debussy’s, Ravel’s, and Stravinsky’s music; he also developed an interest in French symbollic poetry. Poulenc’s first pieces date back to his time in the army (1919-21). The year 1920 saw the establishment of Les Six, an informal grouping of French composers that gathered Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Pierre Auric, Louis Durey, and Germaine Tailleferre. The group advocated simplicity in constructing musical pieces. This also applied to the musical language, which, the memebers of Les Six believed, should be made more accessible to wider audiences.

In the 1920s, Poulenc made a great deal of contacts among Europe’s musical circles. He met Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. In Paris he acquainted Bela Bartók and Wanda Landowska. Like Stravinsky, he composed for Sergei Diaghilev (the ballet Les biches). In the mid-1930 his style transformed and his first religious pieces saw the light of day. After the end of WWII Poulenc travelled extensively across Europe and the USA. In 1956 La Scala premiered his opera Dialogues des carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites). Two years later, in 1958, the staged his chamber tragedy La voix humaine (The Human Voice) directed by Jean Cocteau, who also designed the set for the production. He spent his last years travelling around the USA. He also published a book on Chabrier. Francis Poulenc died in 1963.