One of the most popular pieces by one of the most enduring French composers of the 20th century. Francis Poulenc with his 1924 Ballet Les Biches, which caused a sensation when it was first performed in Monte Carlo in 1924 and established Poulenc as a composer of first rank. He revised the ballet over the years, and I believe this radio performance is one of the first of the final revision of the ballet suite, recorded in 1948.
A composer who went from light breezy pieces to heady Operas managed to have his feet planted firmly in two worlds – and he achieved great popularity in each. So much so that, even some 54 years after his death, the music of Francis Poulenc is still frequently performed.
Leading the French National Orchestra in this broadcast performance is the legendary French conductor Roger Desormiere, who was not only a friend of the composer, but conducted a number of his world premiers. Desormiere was an essential ingredient in French musical life from the 1930s until his career-ending stroke in 1952 – he was responsible for championing the music of many contemporary French composers, among them Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez and Maurice Duruflé. He was particularly active during the German occupation of France during World War 2, serving with the Front National des Musiciens, a group closely associated with the resistance movement in occupied France. He also made the first complete recording of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande during the War, a piece cloaked in considerable symbolism of French resistance in 1942, when the 20-disc set was released.
An important piece of music by a highly influential composer, performed by one of the great interpreters of French music.
Enjoy – and forgive the scratchy disc – it’s badly damaged, but also playable.