HOUSTON – (May 7, 2015) – Rice University’s Fondren Library this spring acquired a sizable archive containing French composer Francis Poulenc’s original musical manuscripts, signed and inscribed printed scores and letters. Largely self-taught and prodigious in both secular and sacred genres, Poulenc (1899-1963) is considered to be among France’s leading composers of the 20th century.
The archive is now open to the public by request in the library’s Woodson Research Center.
“Poulenc’s music, particularly for solo piano, voice and choir, stands as some of the most important Western art music to appear after the First World War, by turn irreverent, sensuous and deeply sentimental,” said Mary Brower, Fondren’s music librarian, who oversaw the acquisition.
The archive consists of original autograph musical manuscripts, including a working draft of the “Aubade Concerto Chorégraphique pour Piano et Dix-Huit Instruments,” the only known autographs of the “Nocturne No. 1″ in C for piano and the “Quatre Poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire pour Baryton (ou Mezzo) et Piano” as well as signed and inscribed printed scores, approximately 100 letters in Poulenc’s handwriting and an autographed Pierre Balmain silk scarf.
The materials are part of the Lambiotte Poulenc Archive from the family of Rose Lambiotte (1891-1964). Lambiotte was a longtime friend of the composer, to whom he dedicated “Adelina à la Promenade” from the song cycle “Trois Chansons de F. Garcia-Lorca” and the “13e Improvisation” for piano solo. Lambiotte’s husband, Auguste, was a wealthy Belgian industrialist and noted book collector. The Lambiottes became Poulenc’s Belgian family, so to speak, in the mid-1940s, and he frequently stayed with them at their Rue Saint-Bernard mansion in Brussels.
Mentored by Parisian avant-garde leaders Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, Poulenc was a member of the group of French composers known as “Les Six,” the other five of whom were Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre, Arthur Honegger and Louis Durey.
“They (Les Six) were a reaction to the late-Romanticism in music at the time, to composers such as Wagner or Impressionists like Debussy,” Brower said. “Their style generally emphasized more brevity and included a lot of humor and parody. They were inspired by everyday life subjects instead of more high-minded things. They were most interested in popular music genres at the time, including jazz, cabaret and even circus music.”
In recent years, leading regional music institutions such as Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony and Houston Chamber Choir have performed works by Poulenc.
For more information about the Woodson Research Center’s Lambiotte Family/Francis Poulenc archive, visit http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/manuscripts/0623. For the library’s hours, see https://library.rice.edu/about/hours/index.