Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Concerto for organ, strings and timpani

Tempo Allegro -
Molto Agitato -
Tres Calme -
Tempo de l’Allegro –
Tempo Introduction –
Largo 

Poulenc wrote the Organ Concerto in 1938, in the same year that Martinu wrote his double concerto. Born in 1899, Poulenc began studying the piano at the age of five with his mother. As a composer he was largely self taught. Later he was greatly encouraged by Eric Satie, who introduced him to the composers Honegger and Milhaud with whom he was later to make up 'Les Six'. Milhaud and Poulenc both travelled to Vienna in 1921 to meet Schoenberg. During the war Poulenc remained in France protesting through his compositions, such as the Violin Sonata, which was dedicated to the assassinated Lorca. He also set to music works by the poets Aragon and Eduard. Later in life he supported the classical Stravinsky circle so bitterly opposed by supporters of Messiaen. Shortly before the composition of the Organ Concerto, Poulenc's composing matured noticeably. It is said that this was due to the tragic death of a close friend in a car accident.

The Organ concerto is made up of one loosely created movement. It is one of Poulenc's finest works. Whilst the string writing in the slower section is reminiscent of his opera The dialogues of the Carmelites, the work is at turns dramatic, tragic and even violent throughout the movement, which is divided to several sections. The tragedy, which lies beneath passages, which are marked allegro giocoso, led one critic to compare the work with the performance of a great sad clown. Poulenc uses strings deliberately as he believed the combination of woodwinds and organ to be "tonal pleonasm". Poulenc himself placed the Organ Concerto "on the outskirts" of his religious music. The work was given its premiere in Paris in 1939 with Duruflé as a soloist.

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