Poulenc, Francis. (1899–1963) [Rosenthal, Manuel. (1904–2003)]

Autograph letter signed to Manuel Rosenthal about "Stabat Mater"

ALS of the French composer from the group "Les Six" to Manuel Rosenthal, one of the most influential and respected French conductors of the 20th century. In French. Monaco, April 8 [no year; 1957?]. 2 pp. On letterhead paper of Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo. Poulenc thanks Rosenthal enthusiastically for a performance of his Stabat mater, translated from the French in part: "What an honor you have bestowed on me by your incomparable execution of the Stabat, which I have listed to very well in Antibes. This was more than perfect, so precise and so moving at the same time. I thank you from the depth of my heart for this deep joy. / I hope you will have other opportunities to conduct this work again that means so much to me." 8.5 x 5.5 inches (21.5 x 14 cm). In fine condition.

Poulenc's Stabat mater was first performed (and not by Rosenthal) on the 13th of June 1951 at the Strasbourg Festival. A performance under Rosenthal on March 11, 1957 was broadcast, which would have allowed Poulenc to listen from Antibes. It is very likely that the present letter refers to that particular performance. Poulenc wrote the piece in response to the death of his friend, artist Christian Bérard; he considered writing a Requiem for Bérard, but, after returning to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour, he selected the medieval Stabat Mater text. It remains one of the composer's best loved and most often performed works.

The French composer and conductor held leading positions with musical organizations in France and America. He was friends with many of his contemporary composers, and despite a considerable list of compositions is mostly remembered for having created the popular ballet score Gaîté Parisienne and left a varied legacy of recordings.  Rosenthal's ties with many French composers, and especially with Maurice Ravel, gave him an unrivalled authority in the contemporary French repertory. "In 1926, Ravel invited him to bring him some of his compositions. From being one of Ravel's rare pupils, Rosenthal soon became a friend, and he left moving tributes to the maître in articles and interviews, as well as the book Ravel: Souvenirs De Manuel Rosenthal (1995). Rosenthal tried to emulate Ravel's example of perfectionism, with memories of many a laboriously completed exercise torn up and dropped in Ravel's waste-paper basket.

It was Ravel who decided Rosenthal's future as a conductor. In 1928 he persuaded the Concerts Pasdeloup to devote a concert to Rosenthal's works and to engage him to conduct it. Never having been on a rostrum before, Rosenthal was terrified, but among those impressed was the celebrated conductor Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht; when he founded the French National Orchestra in 1934, he took on Rosenthal as his assistant." (Roger Nichols, The Guardian, "Manuel Rosenthal: Obituary," June 8, 2003).


Classical Music
Autograph Letter
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Composers / Conductors / Instrumentalists