The three-movement Sextet by Francis Poulenc is scored for piano, flute, oboe clarinet, bassoon and horn. It was written in 1932 and revised in 1939, and was premiered in Paris in December 1940. It is a beautifully silky piece that contains simple yet elegant motives.  It also evokes an emotional depth that is uniquely of Poulenc.

The three movements are Allegro Vivace, Divertissement, and Finale respectively (fast-slow-fast).

In this sextet, it features the piano with the wind quintet. However, unlike in a chamber concerto, the piano is given equal parts as the other members of the ensemble, rather than being accompanied by the quintet.

In the first movement of Allegro Vivace, Poulenc employed Stravinsky’s neo-classicism style. The cheerful and toccata-like opening begins the movement with a refreshing zest.

, the second movement started off with a symmetrical ternary form of slow-fast-slow, in contrast with the first movement of fast-slow-fast. The melody is engaged in the oboe but is being passed off to the other instruments and back to the oboe again before the movement ends.

The Finale, Prestissimo, is a modified rondo, at a much rapid pace, with a powerful ending. It is written in a classically symmetrical pattern whereby the rhythm and the melodic sections are in equal musical measures. Also, in this finale, Poulenc engages a wide range of instrumental colours to depict a range of musical emotions.

~Written by Boon Sin Ler

Home  Archives   Chamber Music History   10 Essential Chamber Music