How did you first come across Poulenc, and what was your immediate reaction to his sound world?

As a clarinettist at school I used to play his Sonata – hard! A mate of mine played the bassoon and we loved playing his duet for clarinet and bassoon. Also, I used to try and sing his songs. When I was a student I was fascinated by his opera, Dialogue of the Carmelitesbut I also loved his orchestral pieces which of course were full of Parisian wit. But I didn’t really come across his sacred works until I was about 20. Singing those motets for the first time was scary – they are so hard.

Where do you think Poulenc’s religious works sit within his genius?

Right at the top. And I think Poulenc felt the same.

Harry Christophers, The Sixteen, Poulenc

The critic Claude Rostande famously described Poulenc as “moitié moine, moitié voyou” (half-monk, half-rascal). Are the sacred works all monk, or does the rascal ever creep in?

They are so personal and you wonder sometimes “what is he thinking?” I sort of interpret the “rascal” element as simply going against form. So whereas in...

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now