Francis Poulenc – Sextet For Winds and Piano – Paris Wind Ensemble -Claude Helfer, Piano – ORTF Studio – 1953 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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The music of Francis Poulenc this weekend. His Sextet for Wind Ensemble and Piano featuring the Paris Wind Ensemble (Robert Castagner, Flute – Robert Casier, Oboe – André Boutard, Clarinet – Michel Bergés, horn – Gerard Faisandrier, bassoon) and Claude Helfer, piano.
A broadcast studio recording from the ORTF in Paris, circa 1953.
An introduction if you aren’t familiar (if you already are, skip it):
One of the great melodists of the twentieth century, Poulenc was largely self-taught as a composer. In the early 1920s he belonged to the Paris-based group of composers Les Six who led the neo-classical movement, rejecting the overstated emotion of Romanticism. Following the death of a clse friend in the 1930s, Poulenc rediscovered his Roman Catholic faith and replaced the ironic nature of neo-classicism with a new-found spiritual depth. By his own admission, Poulenc was no revolutionary, yet the transparent simplicity of much of his output, particularly his vocal and chamber music, places it alongside the finest of the century.
Fanatical about culture, Poulenc followed Cocteau’s advice and sought to rid his music of the general influences of Wagner, Mussorgsky and Debussy in the aim to define a clear, articulate style blending lightness, irony and humour. Member of Les Six group, Poulenc gave new inspiration to French music during the period between the wars. He and his friends had a taste for jazz, music halls, circuses and high society parties.
Far from apparent superficiality, Poulenc’s music shows great sensitivity. Behind the laughs are concealed tears and melancholy. His melodic inventiveness gave rise to numerous, always refined works for voice and piano. His incomparably rich chamber music blends both modernity, (Poulenc met Schoenberg in 1922) and French clarity. The reinvented classicism, childhood nostalgia, caustic humour and sparkling virtuosity of the music Poulenc left behind is very captivating. This “monk-rascal” was to compose sublime scores of sacred music such as his Gloria and Stabat Mater.