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“Francis Poulenc and Friends” is a wonderful 2005 DVD
release by EMI, as a part of its Classic Archive series.
I believe it’s “wonderful,” because it features actual
interviews and performances by this composer, as well as
concerts of his works given by other artists. This film
footage was taken from French television broadcasts
that were produced between 1959 and 1968, five years
after Poulenc’s death.

The disc began with a 1959 interview with Poulenc,
conducted by Bernard Gavoty (1908-1981) and given
before a live audience at the Salle Gaveau.
Here, the composer provided witty revelations of
aspects of his career and art. This was followed by
footage of him accompanying his “favorite”
soprano, Denise Duval (1921 – ), in idiomatic
performances of his songs and operatic excerpts.
Poulenc (1899-1963) was also joined by pianist
Jacques Février (1900-1979) in a 1962 rendition of
his “Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra,”
conducted by Georges Prêtre (1924 – ).

The remainder of the DVD featured celebrated interpreters
of Poulenc’s music, including flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal
(1922-2000), baritone Gabriel Bacquier (1924 – ),
and pianists Robert Veyron-Lacroix (1922-1991) and
Gabriel Tacchino (1934 – ). These artists performed
various Poulenc chamber, song and solo piano pieces.
The DVD concluded with Maestro Prêtre conducting the
Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF in a performance of
Poulenc’s “Concerto in G Minor for Organ, Strings and
Timpani,” featuring organist Jean-Jacques Grunenwald
(1911-1982).

At a running time of one hour and 55 minutes, the
black-and-white film footage contained therein provided
a nice overview of Poulenc’s output in several musical
genres, with authentic concert excerpts. In terms of
documenting the performance traditions of Poulenc’s
music, these archival performances were invaluable,
thereby allowing the witty, urbane “French” traditions
to shine through. I highly recommend it.

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