2015-2016 – A Celebration of the Montgomery Philharmonic’s 10th Anniversary Season
Concert 2 – December 13, 2015 With the Central Maryland Choral
Died: January 30, 1963, Paris France
Spouse: Richard Chanlaire
Parents: Émile Poulence, Jenny Poulenc
Compositions: 4 ballets, 3 operas, 3 orchestral pieces, 5 concertante, 7 works for chorus with orchestra, 19 chamber music works, 16 choral works, numerous solo vocal pieces, numerous piano pieces.
Poulenc visited the United States in 1960 to hear the premiere of his large-scale work, Gloria for soprano, chorus, and large orchestra. The work was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation in honor of Sergei Koussevitsky and his wife, Natalia. It was premiered on January 21, 1961 by the Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Munch. The work is divided into six sections:
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Domine Deus, Rex caelistis
Domini Fili unigenite
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei
This was not Poulenc’s first work for chorus and orchestra; he had written Stabat Mater in 1950. In Gloria, Poulenc creates music that expresses joy and exuberance and at times mysticism and tranquility. His music is diatonic and on paper looks like music from the Classical era. The surprise comes when you listen to it. You hear exquisite melodies and daring harmonies that are combined with fantastic orchestration. Although he never wanted to compose symphonic music, the orchestral pallet that he creates makes the listener wonder what might have been had he chosen to write symphonies.
The Gloria was the result of a commission from the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation. At a talk in the Club des Trois Centres in Paris, just two years before his death, Poulenc recalled how he had settled on a work for chorus, orchestra, and soprano soloist.
“First, they asked me for a symphony. I told them I was not made for symphonies. Then they asked me for an organ concerto. I told them I had already written one and I didn’t want to write another. Finally they said: ‘All right, then do what you like!’”
But in May 1959, in a letter to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor—and Koussevitzky’s successor—Charles Münch, Poulenc told him that he was still unsure about whether he would be allowed to indeed do as he liked:
“I have suggested writing a Gloria for mixed choir, soprano solo and orchestra, 20 to 25 minutes in duration. You may perhaps be able to sway the balance in my favour if there is any hesitation.”