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POULENC: Violin Sonata / Clarinet Sonata / Cello Sonata

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Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) Complete Chamber Music, Volume2

'I am a musician without a label'

'Francis Poulenc is music itself, I knowno music more direct, more simply expressed nor which goes so unerringly to itstarget.' This praise from his friend, the composer Darius Milhaud, can only beequalled by that from Arthur Honegger who admired 'the man, a born composer,'who, 'in the midst of fashions, systems, prescriptions, has stayed true tohimself with that rare courage which demands respect.'

A French musician par excellence, FrancisPoulenc grew up in the heart of Paris, between the Madeleine ('my home town'),the Marais ('my village') and Nogent-sur-Mame ('my countryside paradisewith its open-ajr cafes, its chip-sellers and its bals musettes'). A precociouspianist, his creativity fed on Debussy who had 'awakened him to music',Stravinsky whom 'he took as his guide', Ravel and, above all Satie, whoinfluenced him considerably 'more aesthetically than musically'. Though heconsidered Chabrier a 'grandad', the music-hall fascinated and enthralled him.

For many years, Poulenc had to put up with being labelled a 'superficial' and'light' composer. Nothing is further from the truth. His correspondence,collected by Myriam Chim?¿nes, and the magnificent biography by Renaud Machart,both bear witness to this. 'And his music remains brazenly up-to-date.'

From the first work that he dared makepublic, the Rapsodie n?¿gre, at the advanced age of nineteen years, tothe very last, the Sonata for clarinet and piano and Sonata for oboeand piano, completed shortly before his unexpected death, Francis Poulencdevoted himself intermittently to chamber music, sometimes following an urgentdesire to write, sometimes in response to the wishes of virtuosi friends. Heliked to say, 'To write what seems right to me, when I want to, that is mymotto as a composer.'

Saturated with the Parisian excitementgreeting the end of the Great War, Poulenc's first chamber works display 'theNew Attitude', the often jocular musical vitality of the circle of friendswhich the critics referred to as the Groupe des Six. The Rapsodien?¿gre, the Sonata for two clarinets, the Piano Sonata for fourhands, the Bestiaire and Cocardes were created by a man yetto reach his twentieth birthday, who, replying to a request from his Londonpublisher, described himself as follows. '1 was born in Paris on 7th January1899... I studied piano under Vines and composition almost solely through booksbecause I was fearful of being influenced by a teacher. I read a lot of musicand greatly pondered musical aesthetics... My four favourite composers, my onlymasters, are Bach, Mozart, Satie and Stravinsky, I don't like Beethoven atall... I loathe Wagner... In general, I am very eclectic, but while acknowledgingthat influence is a necessary thing, I hate those artists who dwelll in thewake of the masters... Now, a crucial point, I am not a Cubist musician, evenless a Futurist and, of course, not an Impressionist. I am a musician without alabel.' (Letter of 6th September 1919, quoted in Correspondence)

Trusting his instinct, Poulenc was 'likeail Latins... more into harmony than counterpoint.' Though he had refused tojoin the Schola Cantorum or the Conservatoire, to increase his knowledge heturned to Charles Koechlin, a musician more renowned as a teacher than acomposer. From the four years, 1921-25, when he concentrated on improving -among other things - his knowledge of counterpoint, Poulenc has left us a Sonatafor clarinet and bassoon, a Sonata for horn, trumpet and trombone anda Trio far oboe, bassoon and piano The chamber music was definitivelyassociated with wind instruments.

Following a fairly long period when hemoved away from the genre, Poulenc set out to write for strings and piano. The Sonatafor piano and cello was first written in 1940 and reworked eight yearslater, whilst his Sonata for violin and piano was first performed in1943 with Ginette Neveu. From this same period date L 'histoire deBabar and Poulenc's collaboration with the dramatist Jean Anouilh, for whomhe composed the incidental music for Leocadia and L 'invitation auch?óteau. The start of the 1950s saw the creation of a profusion of piecesfor two pianos for 'les boys', the American pianists Arthur Gold and RobertFizdale. L'embarquement pour Cyth?¿re, a capriccio in the style ofLe bal masque, the Sonata and the Elegie. From 1956Poulenc renewed his relationship with the wind instruments, with an Elegiefor horn and piano. 'I believe that specialising in the woodwind side isthe solution for me at the moment,' he wrote to Pierre Bernac. Like Debussy andSaint-Sa?½ns before him, at the height of his powers he composed three sonatasfor wind instruments and piano The Sonatas for flute and piano, for clarinetand piano and for oboe and piano each represent a poignant homage toa dear departed friend.

To celebrate the centenary of Poulenc'sbirth is to celebrate French music stripped of the ideological abstractions socommon in twentieth century artistic trends, it is to celebrate the freedom tolive and the courage to follow instinct's inner path, it is to celebrate themarriage of poetry freed from the Romantic heritage with music enamoured ofFrench classicism, it is to celebrate the union of Stravinsky with Chevalier,of Pelleas with the music-hall, of the Madeleine with the boulevards, of the'monastery and the mob'. Celebrating Poulenc means also celebrating the Parisof Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Eluard, Cocteau, Picasso, Dufy. This is acelebration of friendship transcending differences.

That is why Naxos decided to entrustthese complete works to a team of young French musicians inspired with thecamaraderie seen on Saturday nights when Milhaud, Auric, Tailleferre, Poulenc,Cocteau and so many others got together to share their latest creations, toeat, drink and have a good laugh. But good spirits are not enough, seeing thisproject through, from its conception to the last recording, took no less thantwo years and offers an opportunity to appreciate the vitality of the youngFrench school of chamber music.

'Nothing is further from human breaththan the bow-stroke,' exclaimed Poulenc to Claude Tostand. Mainly devoted towind instruments and piano, his chamber music rarely ventured into what was forhim, a highly skilled pianist, the less familiar medium of the strings. UnlikeMilhaud (a prolific composer of string quartets) and Honegger (a trainedviolinist, with numerous sonatas for strings to his name), Poulenc gave us onlyone Sonata for violin and piano, an arrangement for piano and violin ofthe Bagatelle from the Bal masque and one Sonata for piano andcello. As for the String Quartet, 'the disgrace of [his] life', itended up down a drain in the Place Pereire one day in 1947 But Poulenc'sleaning towards wind instruments must not make us treat unfairly his works forstrings which retain his melodic elan and the tender warmth of his melodies.

The Sonata for violin and piano wascomposed in 1942/43 and first performed on 21 June 1943 at a Pleiade concert.

It was revised in 1949 and published in 1944/49 by Max Eschig, and is dedicatedto Garcia Lorca.

'To tell the truth, I don't like theviolin in the singular. In the plural, it's quite different.' Poulenc triedthree times to compose a sonata for violin and piano. First in 1919, dur
Item number 8553612
Barcode 730099461221
Release date 04/01/2000
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Tharaud, Alexandre
Spaendonck, Ronald van
Groben, Francoise
Mourja, Graf
Tharaud, Alexandre
Groben, Francoise
Mourja, Graf
Spaendonck, Ronald van
Composers Poulenc, Francis
Poulenc, Francis
Disc: 1
Sonata for Piano and Cello
1 Allegro con fuoco
2 Intermezzo: Tres lent et calme
3 Presto tragico
4 Bagatelle in D minor for Violin and Piano
5 Allegro tristemente: Allegretto - tres calme - tem
6 Romanza: Tres calme
7 Allegro con fuoco: Tres anime
8 Allegro -Tempo di Marcia: Sans trainer
9 Cavatine: Tres calme
10 Ballabile: Tres anime et gai
11 Finale: Largo, tres librement - presto subito
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