Price: $1400.00


Important unpublished two page autographed letter by the great French composer to his publisher Philippe Heugel, late Summer, 1948.  We offer with a vintage 8” x 10” glossy photograph of Poulenc and Pierre Bernac at the piano in New York, 1948.



Dear Philippe,


Calligrammes are finished. I'm very happy with it. This is my best, what I wrote day and night for the voice. I give these seven melodies for the world premiere on November 19 in New York (second recital). Come spend the weekend from September 4th to 6th. You will find two charming American pianists. I'll play Calligrammes for you and see if you like it. I also have 4  petites prières de saint François d'Assise for male a capella choir, very easy, to submit to you - Come - I send you a thousand friendships. Poulenc.


Poulenc (1899-1963) writes to his publisher about his impending American debut where he will introduce his latest song cycle “Calligrammes” which utilized the poems of his at the time, late friend Guillaume Apollinaire.  The poetry deals with war, sexuality and religion, all subjects which interested Poulenc in various ways.  He composed the cycle between May and August of 1948 at the Grand Coteau his home in Noizay, as well as his sister’s home there.  He wrote to his musical partner, baritone Pierre Bernac in July whilst composing from his sister’s house, The Calligrammes are decided, the order of the poems is fixed. There will be one that if I succeed will be cut from very long piano solos. The whole thing fascinates me and I want to make it a real cycle with repeats of rhythmic tones. (Carl B. Schmidt, The Music of Francis Poulenc, A Catalogue; Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995, page 385) Poulenc held a private concert on October 16, 1948 at the home of Marie Blanche de Polignac where he introduced the cycle with Pierre Bernac as the soloist, the composer at the keyboard with guests including, Artur Rubinstein, Henri Sauget, Marya Freund, and Marguerite Long.  Ménestral, Heugel & Cie released a 500 copy edition of the score three days prior.  The first American printing occurred on November 6th, 14 days before the World Premiere on November 20th at Town Hall in New York City.  Poulenc and Bernac performed the work and at the conclusion received 7 curtain calls which included 5 encores within the 7 chanson in the cycle.  The concert which also included works by Gounod, Schumann, Fauré and Ravel received a total of 23 curtain calls.  The pair then went to Canada for performances, followed by a national tour.  The British and French public premieres took place the following year.  The cycle is considered to be a musical masterpiece and has been widely recorded including a recording with Bernac and Poulenc performing.


Quatre petites prières de saint François d'Assise also composed in 1948 was a commission from the composer’s grand nephew Roger, who was a monk at the monastery at Champfleury.  Written for an a capella choir, has never held the place of importance as “Calligrammes”.  The work using a French, rather than a Latin text is considered to be dry and lacking the strength of the original.  The music has been described as uninspired, which is not the first time a commissioned work of Poulenc was described as such.  He was at his best when he truly cared about the project.  The work also written in Noizay at the same time, was completed in September, 1948.  The first performance perhaps was in the Abbey, though a professional performance was given in Paris in 1949 by the Coral Gouverné.  Interestingly, the first edition of the score was published by Salabert in 1949, not Heugel.  Nor did it ever revert to Heugel.


Philippe Heugel (1924-1991) and his brother François took over the leadership of Heugel Music Publishers in 1948 upon the retirement of their Father.  Philippe ran the artistic part of the business and François the business part.  The brothers sold their interest to Editions Alphonse Leduc in 1980.  We could not determine if Philippe came to New York for the premiere of “Calligrammes”, but it probably is unlikely.


A superb letter offered with a photograph taken at the time of the premiere!


Phone: 212-860-5541