Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) – was a French composer and a pianist. He was a member and one of the leading spirits of a loose-knit group ‘Les Six’ (The Six) which was officially launched in 1921. Other composers and pianists involved in the project were: Jean Cocteau, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and the only woman – Germaine Tailleferre.
‘Les Six’ attempted to write in a more simplified, less sophisticated manner. Furthermore, their aim was to return to the tradition of French music. Francis Poulenc studied piano with Ricardo Vines and subsequently composition with Charles Koechlin. Playing the piano constituted an integral part of his life and he continued performing as an accompanist. He composed chamber music as well as numerous pieces for piano solos.
Poulenc’s work bears resemblance to the Neo-classical works of art; however, it is possible to detect some light-heartedness and reserve towards the subject matter.
Among his most famous pieces there are ‘Concerto for two pianos and Orchestra’ (1932), ‘Concert Champêtre’ for harpsichord which also exists in a version for piano solo (written for Wanda Landowska in 1928) and ‘Concerto in G minor’ for organ, strings, and timpani (1938). In the field of solo songs he is an acknowledged master.
In the second half of the 1930’s he began composing religious pieces (The Mass in G, Sabat Mater, Gloria 1960). His opera entitled ‘Dialogues des Carmelites’ from 1956 is the exemplification of his interest in sacred music.
His experience in the field of vocal music resulted in his artful secular and religious a cappella compositions which were written predominantly during the Second World War.