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Following an excellent introduction by Nicholas Southon, this book is divided into seven parts. The first five consist of Poulenc’s own writings – diverse subjects including Stravinsky’s maligned Mavra and his Symphony of Psalms, Wanda Landowska and Satie’s piano music – as well as reviews and lectures. Other brief writings include Poulenc’s contribution to a Debussy exhibition catalogue and an article titled ‘notes on Ravel’.

Roger Nichols’ translation is predictably satisfying, while in his own invaluable footnotes he sometimes corrects Poulenc’s occasionally unreliable references to dates or other details. This publication represents about a third of the original French volume – J’écris ce qui me chante (published November 2011) – but it does include the first English translation of the complete interviews with Claude Rostand. Occupying about one third of the book, these 18 interviews with Poulenc were originally broadcast between October 1953 and April 1954. Music critic Rostand had known the composer for nearly 20 years (it was he who first described the two aspects of Poulenc’s personality as ‘monk and naughty boy’) and his interviews, among the most revealing of any composer- conversations i have ever read, show a deep and comprehensive understanding of Poulenc’s lovable music and character.

sincere and often very amusing, Poulenc discusses his own works, his working methods, his ideas about the future of music, his musical likes and dislikes, and many more topics. His likes, or rather passions, include Mozart, Stravinsky, Debussy and Chabrier, but he also mentions his admiration for Messager (‘a great composer’), Jolivet, Sauguet and others. Fauré’s Requiem, on the other hand, is ‘one of the only things in music that I hate’, while Brahms is ‘too heavy, and too long’.

Though expensive, this beautifully produced, thoroughly recommendable collection (with a dozen delightful photographs) will strongly appeal to all lovers of Poulenc’s music but equally deserves to be much more widely read.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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