‘He plays the piano well,’ wrote the society hostess Mme de Saint-Marceaux in her diary on 18 March 1927. ‘His compositions are not devoid of talent but he’s not a genius, and I’m afraid he thinks he is.’ Intelligent though the lady was, she got this one spectacularly wrong. Poulenc has in fact outpaced his colleagues in Les Six by many a mile, as singers and instrumentalists all over the world will attest, and while he would never have accepted the title of ‘genius’, preferring ‘artisan’, a genius is increasingly what he appears to have been.
Part of the answer lay in always being his own man, and this independence of spirit shows through in his writings and interviews just as brightly as in his music, whether it’s boasting that he’d be happy never to hear The Mastersingers ever again, pointing out that what critics condemn as the ‘formlessness’ of French music is one of its delights, voicing his outrage at attempts to ‘finish’ the Unfinished Symphony, writing ‘in praise of banality’ - or remembering the affair of Debussy’s hat. And in every case, his intelligence, humour and generosity of spirit help explain why he was so widely and deeply loved.
This volume comprises selected articles from Francis Poulenc: J’écris ce qui me chante (Fayard, 2011) edited by Nicholas Southon. Many of these articles and interviews have not been available in English before and Roger Nichols's translation, capturing the very essence of Poulenc’s lively writing style, makes more widely accessible this significant contribution to Poulenc scholarship.
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About the Author
Nicolas Southon has a doctorate in musicology and graduated from the National Conservatoire of Music, Paris. Il a enseigné à l'université de Tours ainsi qu'au conservatoire de région d'Aubervilliers, a été critique dans des revues musicales spécialisées, et apparaît régulièrement comme producteur sur France-Musique. He has taught at the University of Tours and the Conservatoire of Aubervilliers, as well as writing reviews for numerous music magazines, and appears regularly as a producer on France Musique.
Roger Nichols studied Music at Oxford University. In 1980 he became a freelance writer, broadcaster, critic, translator and pianist and has made numerous broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, mainly about French music. In 2006 he was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur for services to French culture.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface to the translation; Translators Note; Introduction; Part I Articles: Le Coq and Le Coq Parisien; On Igor Stravinsky’s Mavra; On Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms; In praise of banality; Long live Stravinsky!; The composer and the sorcerer; Francis Poulenc on his ballets; For the harpsichord, Wanda Landowska has completed in New York her life's work'; Pages from America (diary extracts); Erik Satie’s piano music; How I composed Les Dialogues des Carmélites; Opera in the cinema era. Part II Critical Articles and Reviews: On Richard Strauss’s Elektra; On Oberon; The Paris Opéra ought to put on Fidelio; The heart of Maurice Ravel. Part III Contributions to Works by Others: The lessons of Claude Debussy; Preface to Gabriel Laplane, Albéniz: sa vie, son œuvre; Notes on Ravel. Part IV Response to a Survey: Is there a ‘Messiaen affair’? Part V Lectures: My teachers and my friends; My songs and their poets. Part VI Interviews: Interview with André Laphin; Interview with Lucien Chevallier; Interview with José Bruyr; Interview with Nino Franck; Interview with A.P.; Interview with Jeannie Chaveau; Interview with Claude Chamfray; Interview with Fernando Lopes-Graça; Interview with Paul Guth; Pulenc: an act of faith, Daniel Bernet; Interview with Henri Hell; Interview with Martine Cadieu; Interview: 'A Denizen of Noizay'; Interview with Denise Bourdet. Part VII Interviews with Claude Rostand: Preface to interviews; Interviews 1-18. Index.