Looking for a French composer of the neoclassical age? Meet Francis Poulenc, a guy as central to France's music scene as Copland was to America! Though he has experienced some heartache, his pieces reflect even more emotion than one would think.
Beginnings in Music Most great composers have a start somewhere - Poulenc's was at home with his parents, beginning to study piano at the young age of 5, all the while attending concerts of Igor Stravinsky's with his uncle. These early experiences in music ultimately earned Poulenc a chance to study at the famous Paris Conservatoire, but his father forbade him from attending, insisting he focus on his general studies. That being said, continued piano lessons kept him involved with music, and he premiered Rapsodie Nègre (his third major work) at the age of 18! This was the start of his career as composer.
Personal LifeUnfortuantely for him, Poulenc had suffered loss in profound ways. After losing both parents before the age of 18, he moved on to start his career. In his 30s, he lost several childhood friends to accidents and disease, as well as his childhood girlfriend. After a hiatus from composing, he was able to regain his passion for the art in the form of liturgical works (pieces of spiritual nature).
Poulenc is cosidered by many to be the first openly gay composer. Though he often maintained relationships with women as well, his first serious relationship was with painter Richard Chanlaire, to whom he dedicated the piece Concert champêtre in 1928.
A Taste for BalletPoulenc found another niche in writing music for ballet, one of his most well-known examples being Les Biches (1923). Watch an excerpt of a live performance below!
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