Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃sis ʒɑ̃ maʁsɛl pulɛ̃k] (7 January 1899 - 30 January 1963) was a French composer and a member of the French group Les Six. He composed music in genres including art song, solo piano music, chamber music, oratorio, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music. Critic Claude Rostand, in a July 1950 Paris-Presse article, described Poulenc as "half monk, half delinquent" ("le moine et le voyou"), a tag that was to be attached to his name for the rest of his career.
Poulenc was born in Paris in 1899. His father Emile Poulenc was a second generation director of Poulenc and later Rhone-Poulenc chemical corporation. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play and music formed a part of family life. He was a capable pianist and the keyboard dominated his early compositions. Later in his life, the loss of close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscover the Roman Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone.
Poulenc was a member of Les Six, a loose-knit group of young French and Swiss composers (it also included Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre) who had links with Erik Satie, Jean Hugo and Jean Cocteau. He embraced the Dada movement's techniques, creating melodies more appropriate for Parisian music halls than the concert hall.
He was identified with this group before he undertook his first formal musical training, with Charles Koechlin in 1921.
Poulenc's music is fundamentally tonal; although he made use of harmonic innovations such as pandiatonicism, chromiatically altered chords, and even 12-tone rows (in a few of his last works), Poulenc never questioned the vailidity of traditional tonic-dominant harmony. Lyrical melody pervades his music and underlies his important contributions to vocal music, particularly French art song.
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