Although his family was financially well off, French composer Francis Poulenc actually had very little formal musical education. Having first studied the piano with his mother (his pharmaceutical manufacturer father insisted he pursue general studies and wouldn't allow him to attend the Conservatoire), at age 5, the 17 year-old Poulenc continued study in 1916 with a well-known Spanish pianist of the day, Ricardo Vines, who was active in championing the works of many contemporary composers of the time. Within that same year he had his first composition published - "Rhapsodie negre" (baritone,fl,cl,string quartet,pf) - and was befriended by the other composers who would later make up "Les Six". Poulenc served in the French army from 1918-21, during which time he composed "Trois mouvements perpetuels". Following on the heels of subsequent successfully received compositions, Poulenc and his composer friends formed the post WWI group of French composers referred to as "Les Six" (Auric, Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, Tailleferre). By 1921 Poulenc was a popular member of the "artsy" Parisian social scene of the day. At this time he began piano study with Charles Koechlin - from whom he also learned counterpoint and choral writing techniques. In 1924 the young Sergei Diaghilev, ballet master of "Les ballets Russes, commissioned the ballet "Les Biches", which was hugely successful, and this led to many other commissions by prominent musicians of the day including harpsichordist Wanda Landowska.
In 1936, Poulenc was profoundly affected by the deaths of several friends, including composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud and paid a visit to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour where he had a life-changing religious experience. This was credited with bringing an added depth of maturity and gravity to his subsequent works.
By this time an accomplished pianist, Poulenc became a popular accompanist, lecturer and radio show host all while continuing to compose well-received piano, vocal, choral and chamber works. In the late 40's he promoted his works with a U.S. concert tour and went on to compose his operas "Dialogues of The Carmelites" and "La voix humaine". His choral work "Gloria" was premiered by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony in 1961, and he published a biography of composer Emmanuel Chabrier in that year.
Poulenc had planned to compose sonatas for each woodwind instrument, but only lived to complete them for flute, oboe, clarinet and a work for French horn.
Poulenc died in 1963 from heart failure.
Poulenc's works for flute include : "Villanelle" for pipe (pipeau) and piano(1934); "Sextour" for woodwind quintet and piano(1935); "Un joueur de flûte berce les ruines" for flute (1942); "Flute Sonata"(1957). The "Flute Sonata" was written for flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who premiered it with Poulenc at the piano at the Strasbourg Music Festival in 1957.
One of his best-known works, the "Flute Sonata" emerged to become a staple of modern flute literature.
Available Sheet Music
Mouvements Perpetuels (fl,gtr)
Novellette in C(pts) (WWQT)
Sonata 1922 for Flute & Guitar
Sonata for Flute and Piano (1994) (ed.Schmidt)
Un Joueur de Flute Berce les Ruines (solo flute)