Sample - 789 words essay topic, essay writing: Poulenc
Francis Poulenc was born in Paris, France on January 7, 1899 into a well-to-do family. His father, Emile Poulenc, was one of the directors of the pharmaceutical firm Rhone-Poulenc. Never one to be without money, Poulenc's composing was often viewed as more of a hobby than a necessity. Poulenc never studied at the famed Paris Conservatory or any other musical institution, which later made it difficult for him to be accepted by his peers. Poulenc studied piano with Ricardo Vines and composition with Charles Koechlin, although this study was limited and Poulenc was considered to be primarily a self-taught composer. During the 1920s, Poulenc became associated with a group known as Les Six that included Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre, and Georges Auric (the Les Six received their name after being compared to Russia's Big Five).
Although these composers did not represent a particular school of music, they favored jazz and music hall styles and opposed the romantic and formal style of previous French composers including Claude Debussy. Poulenc, himself, was inspired by Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud and Erik Satie as well as Maurice Chevalier and French vaudeville. While in his early 20's, Poulenc began to have great success as a composer in several genres: orchestral, chamber music, ballets, concertos, film scores, and opera, as well as powerful choral and sacred music. During the 1930's, he rediscovered his Catholic faith and began writing religious music, establishing himself as one of the great religious and choral music writers of the century. He endured the German occupation of Paris during WWII, which gave rise to his most impassioned and difficult work Figure Humaine, or The Face of Man, which was a covert work of protest. Some of his other major religious works include his Mass in G (1937), Stabat Mater (1950), and Gloria (1959). He also wrote the religious opera The Dialogues of the Carmelites (1957) and a one-act tragedy for soprano, The Human Voice (1959).The concert I attended, entitled Poulenc:Piano and Wind, contained three pieces of music composed by Francis Poulenc: Sonata for the Clarinet and Bassoon (1922), Trio for the Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon (1926), and Sextet for the Piano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Horn (1932-39)
All three pieces, although different in their content and composition, contained a similar element common to most of Poulenc's secular music. The main focus of each composition was its melody. Each piece was anchored by one instrument - with the others providing color and texture to the work. Sonata for the Clarinet and Bassoon (1926) was the first piece performed and ultimately my favorite of the three. The bassoon was clearly the foundation of the piece. It led what seemed to be a conversation between the two instruments. The clarinet provided a light-hearted accompaniment to the deep and low voice of the bassoon.
What made the piece even more appealing was the performance of the musicians themselves. Jennifer Rhodes (bassoon) and Benjamin Fingland (clarinet) seemed to become part of the piece itself - making for an enjoyable viewing as well as listening experience. Trio for the Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon (1926) was quite similar to the first piece. Here the piano led the other two instruments in a dialogue of sounds. The two members of the reed family provided an interesting contrast to the percussive quality of the piano. The addition of a third instrument provided a richer texture but each instrument was still able to maintain its integrity and individual sound. The Sextet for Piano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Horn provided a bit of a challenge to the listener.
At times it was not clear which piece was leading and if there was a leader at all. At other times, the piano emerged as the clear dominant piece with the other instruments accenting and enhancing its melody. I enjoyed trying to identify individual sounds from the piece and also just listening to the piece as a whole. My experience at this concert was a rather enjoyable one. Although it was my first time hearing a Poulenc composition live, I had been exposed to his music before, including the three pieces that were performed that evening. For me, it was very beneficial to have been exposed to the music before experiencing the live performance. I was able to prepare myself for what I was about to hear and I was able to focus on the individual sounds being produced because I was familiar with the piece as a whole.
As someone who has just recently been exposed to Poulenc, I found the concert very entertaining. I enjoyed the light-hearted quality that was generated by the performers and by the compositions themselves. It was, at times, almost humorous and contained a vaudeville-like quality that Poulenc was sometimes inspired by.
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