Francis Poulenc was a French dude who wrote loads of music, including the popular opera, Dialogues des Carmelites, and this marginally interesting piano sonata. Read on to learn more about my 100% factual opinions about Poulenc and piano music.
Poulenc was born in 1899, which puts his music squarely in the 20th century. His music is largely underwhelming, unless you consider his choral music and some of his operas, which are moving, emotional, and relevant. He wasn’t trained formally as a musician because his family was into big business, not that stupid creative crap. He chose to study on his own with Ricardo Viñes as his mentor, a pianist who Poulenc described as,
“…a bizarre hidalgo with enormous mustaschios…”
Listen to this sonata for 2 pianos here.
This piece was written in 1918, when he was at the start of his musical career, but it was revised about 20 years later when his music had a more mature sound. Many composers return to early works, aghast and awestruck at how much their abilities have grown. He was known in the classical music community as being a “lightweight” composer, likely due to the fact that many of his contemporaries, like Alban Berg, were writing completely atonal, borderline unlistenable works like Berg’s Wozzeck. 20th century atonality certainly has its place, but it doesn’t generally appeal to people outside of musical academia.
The performer, Seta Tanyel, is an Armenian/Turkish pianist who has had an internationally acclaimed career as a concert and recording musician. She has gone on tour almost everywhere a classical pianist can go on tour, and has wowed audiences on a global scale.
Piano sonatas can seem cold, emotionless, and devoid of texture. Poulenc’s best works are not his piano pieces, but instead the vocal music where he can use the text as guidance. He also wrote a clarinet sonata in 1962, one of his last works before he died in 1963, and it far surpasses the sometimes dull and monotonous tones of this piano sonata for 4 hands.