Publisher: Chester Music
Flute Sonata by Francis Poulenc (1973)
Commissioned by James Galway
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
orch. Lennox Berkeley, Op 93 No.2
Flute Sonata by Francis Poulenc
Poulenc composed the Flute and Piano Sonata at the Hotel Majestic in Cannes early in 1957. Like the later sonatas for oboe and for clarinet, it shows his special sympathy for wind instruments. Irony, wit and sentiment all have their place. The work is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the American patroness who supported so many twentieth-century composers by commissioning works.
The first movement opens with an upbeat figure in the flute - the flutter which precedes the main theme and recurs in the last movement - starting a series of chromatic descents. The form is ternary. The Cantilena is another of Poulenc’s wonderfully still adagios, drawing melodically from Mozart to Tchaikovsky qualified with some chords from Ravel. But the result is pure Poulenc. So is the cubist Presto finale - in spite of borrowings from Haydn to Stravinsky.
Berkeley was a lifelong friend of Francis Poulenc and dedicated several works to him. It is easy to see what the English composer would find to admire here. The qualities they share are spiritual as well as technical.