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Poulenc and the Harpsichord

Donald Macleod discusses how Poulenc's collaboration with the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska led to several important large-scale commissions.

Poulenc's collaboration with the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska leads to several important large-scale commissions.

Poulenc could claim many of the leading performers, artists and patrons of the day among his circle of friends. This week Donald Macleod looks at some of the more significant of those friendships and explores how these associations led to artistic collaborations, starting with one of the earliest, with pianist Ricardo Viñes, followed by harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, poet Paul Éluard and singers baritone Pierre Bernac and soprano Denise Duval.

Poulenc always thought of himself as a product of the prevailing artistic climate of Paris. Born in 1899, he grew up in cultured and comfortable surroundings. His father and two uncles ran a company manufacturing high quality industrial chemicals, while his mother was an accomplished amateur musician, who gave the young Poulenc his first piano lessons.

Poulenc's first encounter with the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska was at the house of the Princesse de Polignac, one of the most influential patronesses of the day. There and then, Landowska charged the young Poulenc with writing her a concerto. It was the start of a series of concertos, and a life-time friendship between them. Meeting her, Poulenc said was, "a capital event in my career".

1 hour

Music Played

  • Francis Poulenc

    Trio For Oboe, Bassoon And Piano

    Ensemble: London Conchord Ensemble.
    • Champs Hill Records CHRCD028.
    • Champs Hill Records.
    • 19.
  • Francis Poulenc

    Concert Champetre For Harpsichord (Or Piano) And Orchestra

    Performer: Maggie Cole. Orchestra: City of London Sinfonia. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • Virgin Classics: 545067 2.
    • Virgin Classics.
    • 6.
  • Francis Poulenc

    Le Bal Masque - Cantate Profane For Baritone [or Mezzo-Soprano] And Ensemble

    Performer: Jean-Marc Phillips. Performer: Alexandre Tharaud. Performer: Ronald van Spaendonck. Performer: Françoise Rivalland. Singer: Franck Leguérinel.
    • NAXOS: 8553614.
    • NAXOS.
    • 6.
  • Francis Poulenc

    Les Biches - Suite

    Conductor: Yan Pascal Tortelier. Orchestra: Ulster Orchestra.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN 9023-.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 1.

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