Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Composer Francis Poulenc

French composer Francis Poulenc, who engaged in a long string of homosexual relationships, was born January 7, 1899, into a wealthy Parisian family. In 1920 he became a member of a group of young composers dubbed “Les Six.” The others were Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre, and Louis Durey. Their music was a reaction against the music by the Impressionists (Debussy and Ravel) and late Romantics (Wagner, Puccini, etc.).

During the late 1920s Poulenc first acted on his homosexuality when he met painter Richard Chanlaire, who became his lover. Poulenc’s second lover, the bisexual Raymond Destouches, was a chauffeur and dedicatee of several of Poulenc’s compositions. The success of his 1924 ballet score for Diaghilev’s “Les biches” (The Deer) led to the commissions of his Concerto for Two Pianos* (1932) and the Organ Concerto (1938) by lesbian American expatriate Winnaretta Singer, known as Princesse Edmond de Polignac.

Poulenc would later have a brief affair with a woman known as Frédérique and have a daughter by her in 1946. They did not marry. In a tour of the United States Poulenc met a friendly gay couple, Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, accomplished duo pianists who commissioned the Sonata for Two Pianos (1953). Poulenc found tours difficult, because they separated him from Lucien Roubert, his lover who died of pleurisy in 1955, just after Poulenc completed his masterpiece, the opera “Les dialogues des Carmélites.” In 1957 he met his last significant lover, Louis Gautier, who helped to revive his spirits. In that year, Poulenc produced his Flute Sonata (middle mvt. in YouTube excerpt below).

Leonard Bernstein commissioned Poulenc to write "Sept répons des ténèbres" (1961) for the opening of the Philharmonic Hall (now known as Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center, NYC. Shortly thereafter Poulenc died of a heart attack on January 30, 1963. One of the most honored composers of his time, he left an enduring legacy.

Poulenc at the piano with Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute. Poulenc (in a close-up) takes at bow at the 4:05 mark. This middle mvt. of Poulenc's Flute Sonata is typical of his light, accessible style.



*French conductor Georges Prêtre champions the works of Poulenc. I’ll never forget a performance in Paris (November 2004) of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, selected by Prêtre to be performed on his 80th Birthday concert at the magnificently restored Art Deco masterpiece, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Prêtre owns this piece. Here he conducts the Orchestra National de la RTF with the composer (piano on the left) and Jacques Février (piano on right) in the first movement of the concerto for two pianos.


3 comments:

  1. I've recently found your very interesting blog. Poulenc has always been a favourite composer of mine and the biographical info is fascinating. Also enjoyed seeing him playing the piano. I've always been fond of Georges Pretre's recording of Les Biches. I had no idea he was so handsome.

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  2. Thanks for visiting my blog. Come back often, and please tell friends who may be interested.

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  3. I was in France in the early '60's. I was hitchhiking my way through the loire valley, visiting various French chateaux. Someone told me to take a little used road to my next destination--Chaumont. They said it was a more scenic road. I was walking for approximately 3 miles, and the few cars that did pass would not stop for me. I was thinking of a way to make them stop, and came up with a plan. I would pretend to be sick. I heard the sound of two cars coming from opposite directions. I lay down on the ground and clutched my stomach. Both cars stopped, and both drivers got out and came over to me. I held out my hand and let the driver who was going my way pull me to my feet. The first thing he said to me when we were in the car was "Je suis Francis Poulenc". He did not speak much English and I spoke a tiny bit of French. He dropped me off in front of the Chateau of Chaumont.. steve4700@msn.com

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