Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano

I - Introduction: Presto; Lento
II - Andante
III - Rondo

Poulenc was born in Paris on 7 January 1899 and by the 1920s had become one of the leading members of the group of French composers known 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, and he is an acknowledged master in the field of French art song.

The trio is one of his best-known chamber works, and contrasts the two members of the double-reed family with the percussive qualities of the piano. It is a relatively early work and although hints of Poulenc's more chromatic style are beginning to emerge, the writing is not as mature as that of the later Sextet. Nevertheless, the piece contains many short, often witty and satirical melodies, and, in keeping with many of his other works, shows influences of Stravinsky and neo-classicism. The harmonies are highly original: he uses mainly diatonic tonalities but combines these with many, often sudden, key changes.

After a charismatic introduction from the wind players, the work leads into a Presto, based (on the advice of Poulenc's tutor, Maurice Ravel) on a Haydn Allegro. The structure of the movement, with its slow, romanticised central section, is typical of Poulenc, and a similar form can be found in his other major piano works. The second movement Andante opens with much more graceful, distinctly Mozartean allusions, soon to be dispelled by the constantly shifting tonalities which lead to the intense climax in the central section. The final Rondo (based on a movement by Saint-SaŽns) has strong rhythmic drive and contains Poulenc's familiar mix of intensity and playfulness. The tempo accelerates towards the end of the piece, which culminates in a harsh chromatic section immediately contrasted by a light coda, a fine example of Poulenc's humorous character.

"Pictorially, one is sometimes reminded of a chase, sometimes a dialogue ... the very heart of Poulenc is in this adroit little work." DPS/JCC

© 1998 The Arethusa Ensemble