Francis Poulenc wrote some of the warmest, most immediately appealing music of the 20th century - music that's adored by the general concert-going public for its easy French charm and witty zest. Yet even his biographer admits that he could be "rich, spoilt and glib" - the latter a criticism that's often made by the musical establishment about his music, which remained happily tuneful and apparently uncomplicated throughout his whole career, even among the avant-garde experiments of modernists in the 1960s.
This week, Donald Macleod explores Poulenc's unique musical voice - and sometimes troublesome character - whilst showcasing a blend of much-loved favourites and rare works.
Chamber and orchestral works thread through the week, with Wednesday's episode devoted to the genre which provided Poulenc perhaps his greatest medium: the solo song. By contrast, Thursday's episode gives us a rare complete performance of one of Poulenc's most original and charming works: his setting of the story of Babar, the little elephant, for narrator and orchestra - a delightful French counterpart to Prokofiev's "Peter and The Wolf" or Britten's "Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra". The week ends with a rare complete performance of Poulenc's choral work, "Sept Repons De Tenebres", and two beautiful late wind sonatas.
In today's first episode, Donald Macleod introduces Poulenc's scandalous musical successes of the 1920s.