Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
I. Allegro malinconico
III. Presto giocoso
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced Intermediate – appropriate for advanced high school and college undergraduates
Paula Robison & Ruth Laredo. Sonata. Amerco, LLC, 1991. MP3.
Wyber, Jana L. A Study of Francis Poulenc’s Melodic Style As Found in the Sonata for Flute and Piano (1956-57), the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962) and the Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1962).1990. Print.
Francis Poulenc was a French musician and composer born in 1899. His mother made him practice Mozart, Schubert, and Chopin on the piano as early as five years old. Poulenc’s uncle introduced him to Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, to which Stravinsky became and remained an admiration of Poulenc throughout his life. Poulenc did not attend the Paris Conservatory since his father did not want him to study music exclusively, but that did not stop his endeavors. His first compositions were published thanks to the help of Stravinsky: Toréador, the Sonata for 2 Clarinets, the Sonata for Piano 4 hands, and the three Mouvements perpétuels. Poulenc died in 1963, and at his request, his funeral only featured music composed by Bach.
Poulenc’s Sonata for Flute and Piano was composed in 1956 or 1957 and dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation. Jean-Pierre Rampal and Poulenc at the piano gave the premiere of the work at the Strausberg Festival in 1957. From Poulenc’s autobiography, here is a moment he recalls from the working on the Sonata for Flute and Piano: “Jean-Pierre,” said Poulenc: “you know you’ve always wanted me to write a sonata for flute and piano? Well, I’m going to,” he said. “And the best thing is that the Americans will pay for it! I’ve been commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation to write a chamber piece in memory of Elizabeth Coolidge. I never knew her, so I think the piece is yours.” Although this piece is titled Sonata, the work does not include a single movement in sonata form. The work is not balanced with the same level of difficulty in the flute and piano parts. The flute is clearly the solo instrument with the pianist primarily given an accompanying responsibility.