A Study of Francis Poulenc's melodic style as found in the Sonata for flute and piano (1956-57), t

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Francis Poulenc preferred a less technical approach to composition, one in which the traditionally French qualities of textural transparency and timbral variation predominate. Much of this directness of expression is due to Poulenc's melodic gifts for it is in the melodies of his works that we consistently find the most important source of his inspiration and originality. Three works that are ideally suited to a study of melodic style are the Sonata for Flute and Piano (1956-57), the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962) and the Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1962), The combination of a single woodwind instrument and piano is perfect for the expression of pure melodic line, given the strictly monodic capabilities of each woodwind and the absence of a poetic text. These works were also written within six years of Poulenc's death and as late compositions, they are undoubtedly representative of the composer's most mature style. Lastly, chamber music is the only genre which includes works written in Poulenc's early, middle and late years. The developnental continuity apparent within this genre not only makes the selection of the late wind sonatas an obvious one for a detailed study of this sort but also provides a representative body of similar, earlier works with which to compare Poulenc's mature melodic style. The aspects of Poulenc's melodic writing to be discussed in the following pages fall into four broad, interrelated categories. First, the underlying melodic contours responsible for determining the fundamental shape of Poulenc's melodies will be examined. Next, ornamentation surrounding these melodic contours in the form of neighbor tones, arpeggiations and cadential ornaments provide important clues to the nature of Poulenc's melodic individualism. An investigation of the relationship between theme and motive will reveal that motivic manipulation is essential to thematic recognition and that a substantial amount of the fonnal cohesiveness of each movement relies on motivic repetition. Finally, the nature of Poulenc's melodic rhythm must be examined. The subtle combination of motivic manipulation, phrase structure and meter changes accounts for one of the most innovative but underrated characteristics of these works. Only when all these aspects are taken into consideration can one fully assess the sophistication of Poulenc's melodic writing as it is manifested in these three mature sonatas.
Bibliography: p. 104-109.
Wyber, J. L. (1990). A Study of Francis Poulenc's melodic style as found in the Sonata for flute and piano (1956-57), t (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/20348