Sextet was first heard in its original version in 1931. However the
composer was not satisfied and re-worked it several times before
reaching a final, definitive form in 1939. It was premiered in
December 1940 in the early months of the German Occupation of Paris
and was eventually published in Copenhagen in 1945.
is almost impossible to know when to take Poulenc seriously, there is
always an atmosphere of tongue-in-cheek surrealism about his music.
If he spins a romantic air you can be sure his sense of the
ridiculous will get the better of him soon. There can be no better
antidote to the intensity of the Austro-German school of music making
than exposure to Poulenc’s lightness
work opens with a dramatic flourish, immediately mocked before the
instruments set off in surreal hot pursuit of each other. Two more
themes are knocked around before we are dazzled by a delightful
sentimental tune in a contrasting slow tempo. This gets gorgeous
treatment before it comes to a sticky end and the furious tempo of
the first half returns.
exactly that with another slow sweet tune bracketing a swift and
jovial acceleration. It ends in a mood of almost Mozartian repose.
The last movement sets off in a wild Prestissimo
but surprisingly decides to end in a mood of solemn apotheosis.