The Endearing Francis Poulenc

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Of all the French the composers, Francis Poulenc is by far the most endearing of his nation’s composers. He once wrote, “music is my portrait, but above all, do not analysis my music; love it.”

Born at the cusp of the 20th century, he became a contemporary man of warmth, wit and typical French sarcasm. Poulenc’s father was an avid music lover and insisted he study music, although he never attended the Paris Conservatoire. In his youth he was self-taught, but linked up with Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes, who Poulenc credits with all of his pianistic knowledge. 

Splitting his time between his Paris apartment and his French country home, Poulenc composed fresh and invigorating piano works, never leaving anything unfinished. On his edition of The Piano in France, Vladimir Horowitz performs the celebrated Toccata No. 2 from the Three Pieces for Piano; André Previn plays the very nostalgic Melancolie; and Poulenc plays alongside his friend, Jacques Fevrier, in the Concerto for Two Pianos.

Program playlist (all by Francis Poulenc):

Pastourelle from L'Eventail de Jeanne, No. 8
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
EMI

Toccata from 3 pieces pour piano, No. 2
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
EMI

Les soirées de Nazelles - Final
Olivier Cazal, piano
Naxos

III. Caprice italien
Jacques Fevrier, piano
EMI

I. Allegro ma non troppo
Jacques Fevrier and Francis Poulenc, piano
EMI

Cinq impromptus III. Très moderé
Olivier Cazal, piano
Naxos

Melancolie
Andre Previn, piano
Philips

Suite Francaise D'apres Claude Gervaise - II. Pavane
Andre Previn, piano
Philips

Improvisation No 15 in C minor - Hommage a Edith Piaf
Greg McCallum, piano
MSR

III. Finale  allegro molto
Jacques Fevrier and Francis Poulenc, piano
EMI

Presto
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
RCA Red Seal

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