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Francis Poulenc (20th Century Composers) Paperback – September 25, 1996


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Product Details

  • Series: 20th Century Composers
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press (September 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071483503X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714835037
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) is often dismissed as the lightweight composer of short, clever pieces, lumped in with the rest of "Les Six." In this volume--one of Phaidon's 20th-Century Composers series--author Benjamin Ivry argues for more consideration and respect for the man who wrote Dialogues of the Carmelites. As is the rule with Phaidon's series, the book is rich in photographs and integrates the composer's life and work in a relatively brief (240 pages, including index), very accessible form; there are no musical examples, although they might be helpful. Mr. Ivry approaches his task with more humor than some of his colleagues, and he is open throughout about Poulenc's homosexuality and its effect on the composer's work and personal life.

Review

'Ivry's much-needed and informative Poulenc captures the French between-wars scene vividly.' (Sunday Telegraph) 'His narrative is fluent, full of interesting stories and very thorough.' (Classical Music) 'Such a fascinating man; such fascinating music; such good reading.' (American Record Guide) 'As a series, Phaidon's 20th Century Composers has brought remarkable variety and a welter of information, both necessary and delightfully trivial. Intended both for the general reader and for the more enthusiatically musical...' (The Scotsman)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
A much needed book, as there is no new biography of Poulenc in English or for that matter in French since the Henri Hell book of 1958, which was subsequently revised in the late 1970s. Ivry is much franker about Poulenc's private life than earlier writers as the publication of unexpurgated editions of Poulenc's letters allows this now. I could have done with some more relevant pictures: for instance there is a two page spread devoted to a picture of a ballet version of the Gloria, a curious choice. There is another book out there waiting to be written about this fascinating and contradictory character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By guilhermo on February 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is by far the best written account of the compositions and life of the French composer Poulenc. It is readable, reliable, and amusing, and there is nothing like it currently available. There are other books like a professor's tedious and Germanic study which is about three times as long but this is the only book in the lighthearted spirit of Poulenc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MPR on June 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
My take on this bio written by Benjamin Ivry is rather bitter-sweet. When I was first introduced to the works of Poulenc I became enamored with his music. To this day I have a special place in my heart for it, and am always excited to read something new about him. Yet, I was almost offended at times reading some of Ivry's wording used in this book to convey Poulenc's life and times.

The first thing that struck me was his choice of subjects. Simply put, Poulenc was homosexual. While this may be a fact of his life, Ivry goes well out of his way to let the reader know this in an unnecessary frequency. I'm not sure why Ivry was so adamant in referencing this fact at about every third page. It's unfortunate that this book may give one the impression that Poulenc was infatuated -- obsessed even -- with sex.

It has been mentioned in the other reviews that there is a great deal of gossip in this book, a point I agree with. It even gets downright catty at times. I remember an image on page 78 of the highly influential arts patron Marie-Laure de Noailles, with the caption that reads "Marie-Laure de Noailles is here charitably photographed by Man Ray in his best fashion-magazine style, her equine nose de-emphasized in a full-face portrait."
Me-YOW. (I must add here that Marie-Laure was, in fact, a lovely woman.)

Above aside, there are some nice, albeit concise, analyses of various works that gives one a good idea of its background and intention when writing them. We are also given some insight to his mental anguish and fear of not being taken seriously as a composer, his time in the military, and his subsequent care-free playful spirit with his many friends. I read this book as a fan of Poulenc's work. But as a reference point on this composer I recommend looking elsewhere. A wonderful choice would be the now out-of-print collection of interviews with Stéphane Audel entitled "My Friends and Myself" (ISBN 0234772514).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan-Clarke Hudson on July 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a terrific little book about an enigmatic French composer of the 20th century. Never having been a fan of his music, I wanted to learn more about him and find out what made him "tick". The author doesn't mince words about Poulenc's romantic liaisons but he also has done alot of research concerning Poulenc's music and the world around him during his lifetime and that's the important aspect of the volume. I plan on re-reading the book and I am sure I will find out even more about Poulenc than I did with the first reading. A great little book. I am most grateful to AMAZON for having this available. I was unable to locate in anywhere. Bravo, AMAZON..
Dr. Alan-Clarke Hudson
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