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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Poulenc's Development as a Piano Composer: A Comparison of the Solo Piano Works and the Mélodies
by Severtson, Kirk A., D.M.A., University of Cincinnati, 2005, 163; 10857204
Abstract (Summary)

Recognized as one of the greatest twentieth-century French composers, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) wrote both songs and piano works throughout his career. His body of mélodies, in particular, are widely regarded as the culmination of the genre, while his piano works, on the whole, are of a less consistent quality. His early works in both genres, such as the Trois mouvements perpétuels and Le Bestiaire, reflect the outwardly fresh and simple aesthetic associated with Satie and the rest of the Groupe des Six. Beginning in 1925, the style of writing between the songs and solo piano works began to diverge, a result of Poulenc’s differing methods of composition. Compared to the mélodies, which began with a careful study of the poetry, many of the piano pieces were improvised at the keyboard and suffer from an over-reliance on pianistic effects.

Three watershed events occurring around 1935 were responsible for bringing his mélodie style to full maturity: a new recital partnership with baritone Pierre Bernac, a religious awakening, and the discovery of a musical language for the surrealist poetry of Paul Éluard. These events greatly affected the accompaniments of the songs, such as the masterful cycle, Tel jour, telle nuit, but Poulenc expressed frustration that he seemed unable to translate this new style into his piano works. His final stylistic period is signaled by a unity of piano writing across the genres, in which all of his stylistic elements are synthesized into a fully mature whole. This thesis traces the development of Poulenc’s piano style throughout his compositional career by comparing the mélodies and solo piano works.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Griffiths, Kenneth
School: University of Cincinnati
Department: Music : Piano
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Francis poulenc, French, Lodies, Piano works
Publication Number: 10857204
ISBN: 978-0-438-02309-3
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