Francis Poulenc: Quelle aventure!

Written by Benjamin Sosland

In category: Song of the Day

Published February 6, 2018

Ever fallen down the YouTube rabbit hole? You know, you innocently start looking for something and three hours later you look up from your iPad, having forsaken all social niceties (and biological necessities), and wonder what happened to the afternoon? I don’t know who has the time to load every video ever made in the history of media, but I for one am thankful that it’s all there. I stumbled across this clip as I was preparing a lecture for Paris Between the Wars, a class I occasionally teach at Juilliard. The video includes a short interview with Poulenc (en français), followed by a performance, with the composer at the piano accompanying the divine Denise Duval—Poulenc’s frequent muse—singing two songs from La court paille. How educational to see the composer himself playing the music he wrote, with the singer who originated the piece. Enough said. “Quelle aventure!” starts at 2:55 if you want to skip ahead, but don’t! I love the footage of them turning the pages and Duval purring “Quelle aventure” to Poulenc like it’s a seduction. And you can listen to the entirety of La courte paille—all seven songs—in about eight minutes. To paraphrase Erik Satie, one of Poulenc’s idols, “A composer shouldn’t take more of the audience’s time than is absolutely necessary.”

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Benjamin Sosland holds several artistic and administrative positions that reflect a wide-ranging musical curiosity. As the founding administrative director of Juilliard Historical Performance, he has been responsible for creating, implementing, and overseeing the School’s newest degree program, which The New York Times has credited for the renaissance in early music in New York. Under his leadership, the department has established itself as one of the leading programs of its kind, combining a rigorous curriculum with frequent performances on the national and international stage. Mr. Sosland has helped develop key partnerships with Les Arts Florissants, the English Concert, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and with the Utrecht Early Music Festival where Juilliard was the first-ever conservatory-in-residence. He is a frequent preconcert lecturer at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and he has served on the jury at the Van Wassaenar International Early Music Competition. He has been the research associate and program editor for the New York Festival of Song and a score consultant for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series of satellite transmissions since this groundbreaking series of broadcasts began. Trained as a tenor, he has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Gotham Chamber Opera, and American Opera Projects and has been the guest of several summer music festivals, including the Marlboro Music Festival, the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute for Young Artists, and the Aspen and Bowdoin Summer Music Festivals. Mr. Sosland holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School, where he is the assistant dean for the Kovner Fellowships, overseeing the school’s elite scholarship program, and a member of the Graduate Studies faculty. His course offerings have included such topics as entrepreneurship for musicians, the dramatic works of Monteverdi, Paris between the wars, and the literary operas of Benjamin Britten.


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