Composer Profile: Francis Poulenc

Posted on: January 18, 2013 in: Composer Focus, Programmes

Our mini Festival in April 2013 celebrates the life and times of one of the most charismatic and influential French composers of the 20th century: Francis Poulenc. Often pigeon holed as the “playboy” of French music, we’ll be shedding new light and fresh perspective on this complex composer, in the 50th anniversary year of his death. To start things off, here’s a brief look into the man behind the music together with some rather fetching snaps!

Name: Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc

Birth and death: Born in 1899 and died in 1963 at the age of 64

Nationality: French

Background: The son of an amateur pianist and French business man, Poulenc showed an early aptitude for composition, gaining praise from the likes of Stravinsky from the age of 18, but was refused entry to the Paris Conservatoire on the grounds that his music wasn’t good enough. Despite this blow, Poulenc soon became an important figure in the cafe culture of 1920s Paris, where his music provided a backdrop to the lavish parties of Cristian Dior, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and may other young, hip and fashionable icons.  Alongside a successful career in ballet, orchestral and chamber composition, Poulenc also possessed a colourful private life which is often thought to be reflected in his vibrant and diverse compositional style.

Breakthrough moment: In 1936 Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of his fellow composer and friend, Pierre-Octave Ferroud. As a result, he was led to visit a religious shrine where he experienced a life-changing transformation that awakened his dormant Catholic faith. After this point, Poulenc produced mostly liturgical compositions, such as his seminal Gloria, that many believe to be the greatest music of his career.

Young PoulencA young, dapper-looking Poulenc. Nice hat! ©2013

Poulenc with dog on rockApparently Poulenc was a dog lover. Her is a very picturesque snap of Poulenc on a rock with his canine pal. ©2013

Poulenc on bridgePoulenc the dandy. Here he is posing for the camera…

Poulenc on ridePoulenc having fun at the fair. © Collection Francis Poulenc

Poulenc and DogMan’s best friend – Poulenc and his beloved pup. ©2013

Find out more about our Poulenc Festival and book tickets online