You will find below a selection of reference books, bibliographical and analytical, chosen from current works on the composer. It’s not, of course, an exhaustive list. Books written in French are quoted as follows: [F].
Hervé Lacombe, Francis Poulenc, Fayard, Paris, 2013, 1104 p. [F]
The Poulenc bibliography lacked a wide-ranging biography encompassing the composer’s entire output as well as his personality and private life. This latest literary work addresses all those aspects: with recourse to many often unpublished sources, it gives the reader a better understanding of the contradictions which drove the man and which played a fundamental role in his musical production and in the development of his very personal aesthetic principles. A marvellous, deeply-moving portrait, full of subtle nuances and particularly well documented.
Henri Hell, Francis Poulenc Fayard, 1978, 391 p. [F]
The reference book for generations of readers. Written by someone who was close to Poulenc, this book was published during the composer’s lifetime in 1958 and was completed in 1978.
Francis Poulenc. "Echo and Source". Selected Correspondence 1915-1963, translated and edited by Sidney Buckland, London, Gollancz, 1991, 448 p.
This work remains a valuable document for English readers who will find in it a selection of 350 letters written by or to the composer, and translated into English. Poulenc reveals himself, converses and rubs shoulders with some great names of his century, suffers, enthuses...
Francis Poulenc, Correspondance 1910-1963, edited by Myriam Chimènes, Paris, Fayard, 1994, 1128 p. [F]
Starting from Sidney Buckland’s book, Myriam Chimenès has compiled this huge survey which brings the number of published letters to over a thousand. When it appeared in 1994, this work revolutionised our understanding of the composer. The Bible for any music-lover who is a Poulenc enthusiast.
Renaud Machart, Poulenc, Paris Seuil, 1995, 252 p. [F]
This indispensable biography possesses two great strengths: splendid illustrations and a chronological biography which reads like a novel yet gives pride of place to the music and in-depth analysis. An absolute must.
Isabelle Werck, Francis Poulenc, Editions Bleu Nuit, 2018, 176 p.
The Horizons series from Editions Bleu Nuit now includes a work on Poulenc. It is lucidly written and well-researched, with excellent black and white photographs. A superb summary permitting a better understanding of the composer, his life and his music.
Jean Roy, Francis Poulenc, Paris Seghers, 1964, 191 p. [F]
A very good overview which describes the man, his life, his works. An ideal first introduction to the composer.
Carl B. Schmidt, Entrancing Muse: A Documented Biography of Francis Poulenc, London, Pendragon Pr, 2001, 621 p.
The benchmark in English on Poulenc.A fascinating biography and well-documented (620 pages nonetheless!). Full appendices with, for example, the programme of Poulenc and Bernac’s concert tours, much unpublished analysis.
Carl B. Schmidt, The Music of Francis Poulenc , A Catalogue, Oxford University Press, USA, 1995, 640 p.
Indispensable work for university level, this complete catalogue lists (in English) every work, how it came into being, his original manuscripts and analysis. Includes also a few recently discovered unpublished compositions.
J'écris ce qui me chante, textes et entretiens, réunis, présentés et annotés par Nicolas Southon, Fayard, 2011, 920 p. [F]
This impressive 900-page book will allow you to discover Poulenc through reviews, tributes, portraits, interviews which have rarely or never been previously published. Enhanced by high quality presentation and annotations, Poulenc's personality and humour speak directly to the reader. An essential book and an ideal complement to "Correspondance 1910-1963".
Francis Poulenc : Articles and Interviews - Notes from the Heart, Nicolas Southon, translated and edited by Roger Nichols, Farnham, Ashgate, 2013, 313 p.
That great authority on twentieth-century French music, the musicologist and writer Roger Nichols, has here selected those parts of Nicolas Southon's comprehensive collection of the composer's writings on music, lectures and interviews [see above] which have not been previously available to English readers. There are many additional commentaries, especially for the fascinating interviews with Claude Rostand. Throughout, Poulenc's sense of humour and lively written expression are evident.
Francis Poulenc, Entretiens avec Claude Rostand, Archives Sonores de l'INA, Cassettes Radio France, 1995 [F]
Have you heard Poulenc’s inimitable voice? Have you heard him talk about his childhood, his music, his spiritual conversion in 1936? These sound archives from the INA resound with gentle nostalgia and the whiff of yesteryear. As it is now out of print, snap up any second-hand copy.
Francis Poulenc, Journal de mes mélodies, Cicero, 1993, 160 p. [F] In English: Diary of my songs, Gollancz, 1989.
Published and annotated by Renaud Machart, this book is the perfect companion to Bernac’s "Poulenc et ses mélodies", a little less analytical but warmer. Poulenc himself offers clues to a better understanding of his love for setting words to music.
Francis Poulenc, À bâtons rompus (écrits radiophoniques, Journal de vacances, Feuilles américaines)), written & edited by Lucie Kayas, Arles, Actes Sud, 1999. [F]
A series of radio interviews which cover the particularly eclectic musical tastes of Poulenc. Each broadcast is devoted to a performer, a composer or a theme: song, fairground music, sacred music, jazz. An amazing testimony.
Richard Burton, Francis Poulenc, Absolute Press, 2002, 114 p.
Amazing work by an English author which charts the paradoxical links between Poulenc’s late discovery of Catholicism and his homosexuality.
Franck Ferraty, La musique pour piano de Francis Poulenc, ou le temps de l'ambivalence, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2009, 316 p. [F]
Erudite in style and drawing on a psychoanalytic approach, Franck Ferrati builds an interesting thesis. Early traumas, bipolar tendencies and a troubled libido are among the significant clues which may lead to a grasp of Poulenc's personality and an understanding of his musical output. A second work "Poulenc à son piano: un clavier bien fantasmé" was published in 2011 and concentrates on the composer's very particular aesthetic.
Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc et ses mélodies, Paris, Buchet-Chastel, 1978, 220 p. [F] In English Francis Poulenc: The man and his songs, Kahn & Averill, 2006.
In 1978 Bernac decided to write this account from his enormous knowledge of the songs, the majority written in conjunction with Poulenc himself.
Dialogues des Carmélites, Paris, L'Avant Scène Opéra, 2010. [F]
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Dialogues. The conception, the orchestration, first performances with Denise Duval, Bernanos’ text.
Alban Ramaut, Francis Poulenc et la voix, Lyon, Symétrie, 2005, 336 p. [F]
A very interesting musicological study of Poulenc’s relationship with the voice (songs, choral and operatic works).
Poulenc: Music, Art and Literature, edited by Sidney Buckland & Myriam Chimènes, Farnham, Ashgate, 1999, 409 p.
This selection of essays translated into English covers such subjects as the links between Poulenc, Matisse and dufy, the birth of the Dialogues, the role of private patronage, an analysis of "Tel jour telle nuit" and a comparison between Cocteau’s Voix humaine and the setting by Poulenc. Compelling in-depth reading.
Jean Roy, Le groupe des six, Paris, Seuil, 1994, 222 p. [F]
Jean Roy (who died in September 2011) was a specialist in 20th Century French music. This work is a perfect reflection of his scholarship and his passion for this period. Once again, we appreciate his concise approach.
Yannick Simon, Composer sous Vichy, Symétrie, 2009, 432 p. [F]
A very interesting essay which depicts French musical life during the Occupation.
Francis Poulenc demonstrated his own “resistance” with the composition of the Violin Sonata (1942) dedicated to Garcia Lorca, Deux Poèmes de Louis Aragon (1943) and Figure Humaine (1943) on a text written by Paul Eluard.
Actes du colloque de janvier 2013 : Du langage au style : singularités de Francis Poulenc, SFM, 2016, 400 p.
Une passionnante contribution de musicologues et universitaires, dirigée par Hervé Lacombe et Lucie Kayas. Les différents genres dans lesquels Poulenc s'est exprimé sont abordés : de la messe à l'opéra, de la mélodie à la musique de film, de la symphonie à la musique de chambre, du concerto à la sonate.
Actes du colloque de novembre 2013 : Fortune de Francis Poulenc : diffusion, interprétation, réception, sous la direction de Hervé Lacombe et Nicolas Southon, Presses Univ. de Rennes, 2016, 301 p.
De l'Espagne au Japon, en passant par l'Allemagne ou l'Italie, comment Poulenc et son œuvre furent-ils accueillis ? On s'attache à l'écoute de Poulenc et de quelques œuvres phares par les écrivains et musicologues de son temps, mais aussi à la manière dont lui-même a créé les conditions de son traitement critique. Éclairant.