Poulenc (1899-1963) - Gloria
taught piano by his mother, in his teens Poulenc studied with Ricardo Vines
who introduced him to Satie, Auric and others. Joining Les Nouveux Jeunes,
his (now politically incorrect?) Rapsodie Negre (1917) brought the
prerequisite notoriety, but by 1920, conscious of his sparse education,
he studied harmony under Koechlin for three years. “Graduating” to membership
of Les Six, the inner sanctum of Les Nouveux Jeunes nominated
by critic Henri Collet, Poulenc enthusiastically embraced their guiding
principle: conversion of “Parisian folklore” into what we might call “Nationalism
with street cred”. Traditional audiences were outraged; the popular masses
“education” steered the evolution of his distinctive style. With scant
knowledge of form and counterpoint, he couldn't “carry” an argument. Instead
he interlocked “tiles” of contrasted, naturally “breathing” phrases into
musical “mosaics”, varying recurrent episodes almost minimalistically.
While the method is reminiscent of Messiaen, the results are very different!
Although technically ignorant his innate talent for orchestral sonority,
plus that harmonic education and strong jazz influences, gave his music
a vaguely sleazy, but dangerously seductive charm.
the “tiles” come in two basic “colours”. Bright, jagged, jazzy “tiles”
reflect the outrageous joi-de-vivre of his “Street cred” persona.
Mystical, mellifluous, serene “tiles”, often tinged by ecclesiastical chant,
reflect his enduring Catholic faith. This alternation of “profane”
and “sacred” imbues the Gloria with unique succulence, which some
found unpalatable when it was premièred by the Boston Symphony in
1961. Fortunately, the misery-gutses who were scandalised by the glories
of the Gloria failed miserably to suppress this irrepressible music.
dedicated the work to the memory of his wife, Nathalie, and Serge Koussevitsky.
Of the six short movements, the last features some spine-tinglingly organ-like
sonorities and one of the most sublime, throat-lumpingly beautiful codas
it has been my privilege to experience.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Domine fili unigenite.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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