22 Aug 2019

POULENC: Organ Concerto

From Music Alive, 8:03 pm on 22 August 2019

Music that Bach might have written, had he lived in the 20th Century.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Performed by Benjamin Sheen with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Bertrand de Billy

Benjamin Sheen at the Auckland Town Hall Organ

Benjamin Sheen at the Auckland Town Hall Organ Photo: cactusphotography 2016, ex artist's website www.bensheen.com

The Organ Concerto took Francis Poulenc the best part of four years to compose, and in the early stages he described his work as ‘grave and austere’.

It came about as a commission from Winaretta Singer – the remarkable Princesse Edmond de Polignac. She had commissioned Poulenc’s earlier Concerto for Two Pianos and she now wanted a piece to feature the spectacular Cavaillé-Coll organ in her private 250-seat salon – and maybe for her to play herself.  

But the year was 1934 and times were tough. The Princess said she could only afford half the fee that she’d paid for the Two Piano work … she blamed President Roosevelt.

Poulenc accepted nevertheless, produced a much more serious work than the Princess expected, and we could say that her 12,500 francs were well spent.

Recorded by RNZ in Auckland Town Hall, 22 August 2019
Producer: Tim Dodd; Engineer: Rangi Powick