tremendous work 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 of spirit.
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.
Divertissement is 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.