Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sextet for piano and wind instruments

I - Allegro vivace - Très vite et emporté
II - Divertissement - Andantino
III - Finale - Prestissimo

Poulenc, a French composer, was the youngest of a group known in France after World War I as Les Six (the others were Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Tailleferre and Auric). His works include ballets, orchestral works, chamber music, piano music, songs and opera.

He began the Sextet in 1932 and it took seven years to reach its final form. To the standard romantic wind quintet of the nineteenth century, he added the piano, of which he was an accomplished player.

This Sextet demonstrates his effective melodies and his original use of harmony: he uses diatonic tonalities but his key changes are very sudden. The wind theme after the opening flourish appears in many different forms throughout the lively energetic sections of the first movement; the slow piano theme that begins the ballad-like central section is also derived from this. There is a passionate climax in the central section before the opening returns, leading into a coda which maintains the rhythmic drive through to the ending flourish.

The outer sections of the slow movement are calm and serene with the melody being passed around the wind over a flowing piano accompaniment. This is contrasted with the jaunty middle section which pre-empts some of the themes in the final movement.

The final movement has two contrasting themes - one rhythmic and lively, the other lush and melodic. After a brutal climax, the coda winds down the whole work with a warm C major ending. DPS

© 2001 The Arethusa Ensemble