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Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc ( ; January 7, 1899 – January 30, 1963) was a Frenchmarker composer and a member of the French group Les Six. He composed music in all major genres, including art song, chamber music, oratorio, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music. Critic Claude Rostand, in a July 1950 Paris-Presse article, described Poulenc as "half monk, half delinquent" ("le moine et le voyou"), a tag that was to be attached to his name for the rest of his career.


Early life

Poulenc was born in Parismarker in 1899. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play and music formed a part of family life. He was a capable pianist and the keyboard dominated much of his early compositions. He also, throughout his career, borrowed from his own compositions as well as those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Camille Saint-Saëns. Later in his life, the loss of some close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadourmarker, led him to rediscover the Roman Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone.


Poulenc was a member of Les Six, a group of young French and Swiss composers (comprising himself along with Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre) who also had links with Erik Satie, Jean Hugo and Jean Cocteau. He embraced the Dada movement's techniques, creating melodies that would have challenged what was considered appropriate for Parisian music halls.

He was already identified with this group before he undertook his first formal musical training, with Charles Koechlin in 1921.

Poulenc was a featured pianist in several recordings, including some of his own songs (with Pierre Bernac, recorded in 1947; and Rose Dercourt) and the concerto for two pianos (recorded in May 1957). He supervised the 1961 world premiere recording of his Gloria, which was conducted by Georges PrĂŞtre. His recordings were released by RCA Victor and EMI. Poulenc's Perpetual Motion Nr. 1 (1918) is used in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948).

Among Poulenc's last series of major works is a series of works for wind instruments and piano. He was particularly fond of woodwinds, and planned a set of sonatas for all of them, yet only lived to complete four: sonatas for flute, oboe, clarinet, and the Elégie for horn.

Poulenc died of heart failure in Paris in 1963 and is buried at the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise in Paris.

Personal life

Some writers consider Poulenc one of the first openly gay composers. His first serious relationship was with painter Richard Chanlaire, to whom he dedicated his Concert champĂŞtre: "You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, a reason for living and working." He also once said, "You know that I am as sincere in my faith, without any messianic screamings, as I am in my Parisian sexuality." However, Poulenc's life was also one of inner struggle. Having been born and raised a Roman Catholic, he struggled throughout his life between coming to terms with his "unorthodox" sexual "appetites" and maintaining his religious convictions.

Poulenc also had a number of relationships with women. He fathered a daughter, Marie-Ange, although he never formally admitted that he was indeed her father . Her mother, "Freddy" is the dedicatee of two of his songs. He was also a very close friend of the singer Pierre Bernac, for whom he wrote many songs. The now-published correspondence between the two men, however, strongly suggests that they were never sex partners.

Poulenc lived at 5, rue de MĂ©dicis, Paris.
Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of friends. In 1923 he was "unable to do anything" for two days after the death from typhoid fever of his twenty-year-old friend, the novelist Raymond Radiguet. However, two weeks later he had moved on, joking to Sergei Diaghilev at the rehearsals he was unable to leave, about helping a dancer "warm up". Then in 1930 came the death of the young woman he had hoped to marry, Raymonde Linossier. While Poulenc admitted to having no sexual interest in Linossier, they had been lifelong friends. In 1936, Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of another composer, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, who was decapitated in an automobile accident in Hungary. This led him to his first visit to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadourmarker. Here, before the statue of the Madonna with a young child on her lap, Poulenc experienced a life-changing transformation. Thereafter his work took on more religious themes, beginning with the Litanies à la vierge noire (1936). In 1949, Poulenc experienced the death of another friend, the artist Christian Bérard, for whom he composed his Stabat Mater (1950). Other sacred works from this period include the Mass in G (1937), Gloria (1959), and Sept répons des ténèbres (1961–2).




  • Les Biches, ballet (1922/23)
  • Pastourelle (1927; for the children's ballet L'Éventail de Jeanne, to which ten French composers each contributed a dance; this excerpt became better known in its piano transcription)
  • Les Animaux Modèles, ballet (1941)



  • Sinfonietta (1947)


  • Concert ChampĂŞtre, for harpsichord and orchestra, (1927–1928)
  • Aubade, a "Concerto ChorĂ©ographique" for piano and 18 instruments (1930)
  • Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor (1932)
  • Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor (1938)
  • Piano Concerto (1949)

Vocal/Choral Orchestral

  • Litanies Ă  la vierge noire (SSA, org) (1936), orchestrated (1947)
  • Stabat Mater (Soprano solo, SATB divisi, orchestra )(1950)
  • Gloria (Soprano solo, SATB divisi, orchestra) (1959)
  • Sept rĂ©pons des tĂ©nèbres (Child Soprano, Men's Chorus, Children's Chorus, orchestra (1961-2)
  • La Dame de Monte-Carlo (Soprano solo, orchestra) (1961)


  • Sonata for 2 Clarinets, op. 7 (1918/1945)
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 12 (1918)
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Bassoon, op. 32 (1922/1945)
  • Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone, op. 33 (1922/1945)
  • Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, op. 43 (1926)
  • Villanelle for Pipe (pipeau) and Piano, op. 74 (1934)
  • Suite française for 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Percussion and Harpsichord, op. 80 (1935)
  • Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet, op. 100 (1932–9)
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 119 (1942–3/1949)
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano, op. 143 (1940–48)
  • Trois mouvements perpĂ©tuels for 9 Instruments, op. 14 (1946)
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano, op. 164 (1956–7)
  • ElĂ©gie for Horn and Piano, op. 168 (1957) In memory of Dennis Brain
  • Sarabande for Guitar, op. 179 (1960)
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, op. 184 (1962)
  • Oboe Sonata, op. 185 (1962)


for one piano

for four hands

  • Capriccio for 2 pianos (after Le bal MasquĂ©), FP 155

for two pianos

  • Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra in D minor, FP 61
  • Sonata for 2 pianos, FP 156
  • Sonata for piano, 4 hands, FP 8
  • L'embarquement pour Cythère, valse-musette for 2 pianos (from film, Le voyage en AmĂ©rique), FP 150
  • ÉlĂ©gie (en accords alternĂ©s), for 2 pianos, FP 175


  • Chanson Ă  boire (TTBB) (1922)
  • Sept chansons (SATB) (1936)
  • Litanies Ă  la vierge noire (SSA, org) (1936), orchestrated (1947)
  • (SSA) (1936)
  • Mass in G (SATB) (1937)
  • SĂ©cheresses (chorus, orchestra) (1937)
  • Quatre motets pour un temps de pĂ©nitence (SATB): "Vinea mea electa", (1938); "Tenebrae factae sunt", (1938); "Tristis est anima mea", (1938); "Timor et tremor", (1939)
  • Exultate Deo (SATB) (1941)
  • Salve regina (SATB) (1941)
  • Figure humaine (12 voices) (1943)
  • Un soir de neige (6 voices) (1944)
  • Chansons françaises: "Margoton va t'a l'iau", (SATB)(1945); "La belle se sied au pied de la tour" (SATBarB) (1945); "Pilons l'orge" (SATBarB) (1945); "Clic, clac, dansez sabots" (TBB) (1945); "C'est la petit' fill' du prince" (SATBarB) (1946); "La belle si nous Ă©tions" (TBB) (1946); "Ah! Mon beau laboureur" (SATB) (1945); "Les tisserands" (SATBarB) (1946)
  • Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Men's chorus) (1948)
  • Quatre motets pour le temps de NoĂ«l (Mixed chorus): "O magnum mysterium" (1952); "Quem vidistis pastores?" (1951); "Videntes stellam" (1951); "Hodie Christus natus est" (1952)
  • Ave verum corpus (SMezA) (1952)
  • Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue (Men's Chorus): "O JĂ©su perpetua lux" (1957); "O proles hispaniae" (1958); "Laus regi plena gaudio" (1959); "Si quaeris" (1959)


  • Rapsodie Nègre (poems by Poulenc in an imaginary exotic language) op. 1 (1917)
  • Le Portrait (poem by Colette) (1937)
  • La Grenouillère (poem by Apollinaire) (1938)
  • Deux poèmes d'Apollinaire (poems by Apollinaire: I: "Dans le jardin d'Anna", II: "Allons plus vite") (1939)
  • Bleuet (poem by Apollinaire) (1939)
  • BanalitĂ©s (poems by Apollinaire: I: "Chanson d'Orkenise", II: "HĂ´tel", III: "Fagnes de Wallonie", IV: "Voyage Ă  Paris", V: "Sanglots") (1940)
  • The Story of Babar the Elephant for Piano and Narrator (1940 – orchestrated by Jean Françaix 1945)
  • Deux poèmes d'Apollinaire (poems by Apollinaire: I: "Montparnasse", II: "Hyde Park") (1941-1945))
  • Deux poèmes d'Apollinaire (poems by Apollinaire: I: "Le pont", II: "Un poème") (1946)
  • Paul et Virginie (poem by Raymond Radiguet) (1946)
  • Rosemonde (poem by Apollinaire) (1954)
  • Parisiana (poems by Max Jacob: I: "Jouer du Bugle", II: "Vous n'Ă©crivez plus?") (1954)
  • Dernier Poème (poem by Robert Desnos) (1956)
  • La courte Paille (poems by Maurice CarĂŞme), I: "Le sommeil", II: "Quelle aventure!", III: "La Reine de Coeur", IV: "Ba, be, bi, bo, bu", V: "Les anges musiciens", VI: "Le Carafon", VII: "Lune d'Avril") (1960)
  • Tel jour telle nuit (poems by Paul Éluard), I: "Bonne journĂ©e", II: "Une ruine coquille vide", III. "Le front comme un drapeau perdu", IV. "Une roulotte couverte en tuiles", V. "A toutes brides", VI. "Une herbe pauve", VII. "Je n'ai envie que de t'aimer", VIII. "Figure de force brĂ»lante et farouche", IX. "Nous avons fait la nuit" (1936-1937)


  • Francis Poulenc Echo and Source. Selected Correspondence 1915-1963, translated and edited by Sidney Buckland, London, Gollancz, 1991, 448 p.
  • Francis Poulenc, Correspondence 1910-1963, Ă©ditĂ©e par Myriam Chimènes, Paris, Fayard, 1994, 1128 p.
  • Francis Poulenc, Journal de mes mĂ©lodies, Cicero, 1993, 160 p.
  • Francis Poulenc, Ă€ bâtons rompus (Ă©crits radiophoniques, Journal de vacances, Feuilles amĂ©ricaines), Ă©crits Ă©ditĂ©s par Lucie Kayas, Arles, Actes Sud, 1999.
  • Francis Poulenc, Moi et mes amis, confidences recueillies par StĂ©phane Audel, Paris, La Palatine LigugĂ©, 1963, 206 p.
  • Renaud Machart, Poulenc, Paris, Seuil, 1995, 252 p.
  • Henri Hell, Francis Poulenc, Paris, Fayard, 1978, 391 p.
  • Jean Roy, Francis Poulenc, Paris, Seghers, 1964, 191 p.
  • Carl B. Schmidt, Entrancing Muse: A Documented Biography of Francis Poulenc, London, Pendragon Pr, 2001, 621 p.
  • Benjamin Ivry, Francis Poulenc, Londres, Phaidon Press Limited, 1996.
  • Simon Basinger, Les Cahiers de Francis Poulenc, Paris/collectif de l'Association F.Poulenc, Paris, 2008.
  • Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc et ses mĂ©lodies, Paris, Buchet-Chastel, 1978, 220 p.
  • Richard Burton, Francis Poulenc, Absolute Press, 2002, 114 p.
  • Francine Bloch, Phonographie de Francis Poulenc. Paris / Bibliothèque Nationale (1984)
  • Poulenc: Music, Art and Literature, sous la direction de Sidney Buckland et Myriam Chimènes, Ashgate, 1999, 409 p.
  • Alban Ramaut, Francis Poulenc et la voix, Lyon, SymĂ©trie, 2005, 336 p.


  1. Benjamin Ivry (1996). Francis Poulenc, 20th-Century Composers series. Phaidon Press Limited. ISBN 0-7148-3503-X.
  2. Myriam Chimènes: 'Poulenc, Francis', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed [25 December 2006]),
  3. Composer profile
  4. Aldrich, Robert and Wotherspoon, Gary (Eds.) (2001). Who's Who in Contemporary Gay & Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22974-X.
  5. Composer Biographies for Elif Savas' CD of Reynaldo Hahn, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Peter Tchaikowski, Francis Poulenc, Karol Szymanowski, Martin Hennessy

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