I Write The Music

Francis Poulenc – Piano Concerto FP. 146

Posted in Uncategorized by Higher Density Blog on July 31, 2017

thenameisgsarci 

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ublished on Jun 28, 2016

This was the last of Poulenc’s five concertos. While in the first fifteen years of his career Poulenc had made a reputation as a light-hearted composer, personal crises in the late 1930s awakened a dormant religious sensibility. Thereafter, including the war years, he had written music of considerably more seriousness of purpose, but even in them retained his lightness of touch and his ability to charm. After the war ended, restoring communication between Paris and America, the Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned this piano concerto from Poulenc. It was premiered by that orchestra, conducted by Charles Munch on January 6, 1950, with the composer as soloist.

Now Poulenc returned, for this composition, to his earlier breezy style. The composition is in three movements, each smaller than the previous one; their lengths are about ten, five and a half, and four minutes. The piano is not treated as an individual protagonist against the orchestra, but as a part of the entire ensemble.

The concerto opens with the piano playing one of Poulenc’s rhythmic ideas of faux gruffness, which is countered by a lovely tune on English horn. Reminiscent of various Rachmaninoff themes, the movement meanders here and there, never quite making up its mind; there are subdued hints of the approaching Poulenc opera “Dialogues of the Carmelites.”

The slow second movement is tender, with a sense of some sadness, using a string melody introduced with softly marching rhythms in the horns. The movement then acquires a certain airy repose after the start.

The finale is called Rondeau à la française and is in a very fast tempo. In one of the final episodes, a tune appears which has been traced back to A la claire fontaine, an old sea chanty dating back to the time of Lafayette. Its first few notes are the same as that of Foster’s song “Old Folks at Home” (or “Swanee River”), which some French commentators have mid-identified as a “Negro spiritual.” Poulenc blends it, surprisingly, with a Brazilian maxixe rhythm.

The concerto was not particularly well received, though; and was noted that there was “more sympathy than real enthusiasm,” which the composer attributed to the notion that the audience had listened to too much Sibelius. One critic wrote in Le Figaro: “Certainly it isn’t a concerto at all but a little picture of manners, done up by a minor master.” But Poulenc wrote: “I lead an austere existence in this very Puritan town.”

(AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Please take note that the audio AND the sheet music ARE NOT mine. Change the quality to a minimum of 480p if the video is blurry.

Original audio: classical-music-online.net
Original sheet music: imslp.org

 

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