On the stage of the Salle Gaveau in Paris, one evening of 1959, before a well-heeled audience, Francis Poulenc at the piano, accompanies his musician friends who interpret his works. This film provides the best possible portrait of the composer.
Trained as a pianist, born in 1899 in Paris, Poulenc never studied composition at the conservatory, but took lessons with Charles Koechlin. He obtained his first successes with Rhapsodie Nègre and Le Bestiaire (based on poems by Apollinaire) which already suggests the originality of his music. At the beginning of the twenties, he was a member of the Group of Six, composed of composers whose taste for jazz, the music-hall, popular melodies and humour was brought together under the influence of Jean Cocteau.
In Francis Poulenc's life friendship plays a Major role. First of all his friendship with Denise Duval, the soprano he discovered, with Cocteau, at the Folies Bergères. She will be his muse and he will write for her his most beautiful lyrical pieces: The Breasts of Tiresias, Dialogues of the Carmelites and The Human Voice. Accompanied by Poulenc at the piano, with her fluty voice, she sings excerpts of these three works. She then offers us two melodies from La courte paille, a delightful anthologuy of short pieces written for her by Poulenc to sing to her little boy.
The pianist Jacques Février is his childhood friend. The Concerto for Two Pianos, which he premieres with the composer in 1932 at the Venice Biennial, is dedicated to him. The piece is just as charming three decades later, in 1962, played by the same performers accompanied by the National Orchestra of the RTF under the direction of Georges Prêtre.
A year later, Francis Poulenc dies. A concert in homage to him is organised by his friends for French television. Among them is Jacques Février, of course, but also Gabriel Bacquier who offers us a selection of his melodies: Hôtel, Voyage à Paris, Les gars qui vont à la fête, L'offrande, Invocation aux Parques, La belle jeunesse…
We find ourselves once again on the stage of the Salle Gaveau in 1959, with the cantilena of the Sonata for flute and piano, one of the most beautiful works written by the composer "in good humour, at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes." The person to whom the piece is dedicated and premieres it, his flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, confides that it is "an appropriately difficult piece." Pure melodic feeling.
Berliner Philharmoniker, Waldbühne 2005
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre et Choeurs de l'ORTF