The Kennedy Center

Francis Poulenc


Born in Paris, France, in 1899, Francis Poulenc was a composer noted for music that is witty, crystal clear, and tuneful. His mother, a talented amateur pianist, was his first piano teacher and his involvement with music was to remain that of an amateur for some years. At age 18, Poulenc had his first major success as a composer with Rapsodie Nègre for baritone and chamber ensemble. He had had no composition lessons at this point and, despite some study later, he remained largely self-taught.

While in the French National Service in 1918, Poulenc composed a number of miniature pieces. Among them was a short work for piano, Trois Mouvements Perpétuels, played for the first time in public in 1919, and which became popular throughout Europe. In the Twenties, he was part of a group of five other young French composers nicknamed “Les Six.” They followed the artistic leanings of Satie and Cocteau, rebelling against the Germanic tradition in music.

Poulenc wrote in almost every medium. His piano works included short pieces as well as concertos for one and two pianos and orchestra. Among his choral works are Un Soir de Neige and a Stabat Mater. His theater works include several ballets,; a one-character, one-act tragedy, La Voix Humaine; and the religious opera, Les Dialogues des Carmelites.
Francis Poulenc


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