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Poulenc's Wartime Secrets

Poulenc's choruses ... have the absence of color of the days we lived through, and the immaterial light of hope.

ANDRE SCHAEFFNER, "Francis Poulenc, musicien français"

Poulenc's War

After France declared war on Germany on 1 September 1939, Francis Poulenc, at forty a veteran of the First World War, had a much easier time as a soldier in the French army than most of his fellow composers. Instead of being forced to sit idle in a field during months of tense anticipation, Poulenc was sent on a goodwill tour by the Administration of Fine Arts with baritone Pierre Bernac to give concerts in January and February 1940 in Portugal, Italy, and Switzerland. When the Germans finally invaded in May 1940, there followed mass surrenders of French soldiers, including Olivier Messiaen, who were subsequently sent to German camps as prisoners of war; thousands of others in central France fought, with André Jolivet, to defend the country against the advancing German troops; some, most notably Jehan Alain, Maurice Jaubert, and Jean Vuillermoz, did not survive the battles.1 Poulenc's antiaircraft unit, which was called up on 2 June to the relatively safe city of Bordeaux, retreated around one hundred miles east to a small village outside of Cahors. When the two countries signed an armistice on 22 June, Poulenc found himself south of the demarcation line that divided the country into a northern zone occupied by German troops-including Paris and the country's strategic Atlantic coastlines-and a southern zone nominally in the control of the French government. By mid-July he was demobilized after having served six weeks in uniform.

Poulenc took full advantage of the peace and quiet of his idyllic surroundings. He was enchanted with the countryside and inspired by the people he met; in letters to friends he nicknamed the elderly farmers who were his hosts "Philémon and Baucis," and he described their barn, where he slept with other soldiers, as "very La Fontaine." "I have faith in the future, in our 'team,' and, what is more, I feel full of music," he wrote to Bernac on 10 July. "I have come up with a thousand melodies and the overall color of my ballet. Even the absence of a piano has been good for me."2 Poulenc had given some thought to a ballet based on the fables of Jean de La Fontaine as early as 1937, but it was the defeat of France that gave him the impetus and the opportunity to write the piece. By the time he was able to cross into the occupied zone in early September, he had picked out six fables and sketched most of the score.

In choosing to live in the occupied zone, Poulenc had to navigate among the competing demands placed upon prominent civilians there: by the German occupying forces, which sought to promote German music at the expense of French compositions and to encourage collaboration; by the Vichy regime, which balanced the need to defend French culture against German propaganda with not only the necessity of collaboration, but also political pressures to redefine the nation's cultural heritage along new ideological lines; and by the networks of resistance that gradually formed to combat German propaganda while eyeing Vichy's efforts with suspicion. Narrating the trajectory of Poulenc's wartime activities provides us, then, with more than just the story of one celebrated composer's ability not only to survive but to thrive in the adverse circumstances of wartime France. It also gives us the opportunity to explore how the primary agents of those adverse circumstances-German occupiers, Vichy officials, and Resistance agitators-envisioned the role of music, especially new French compositions for the opera and ballet, in their projects and aspirations in wartime France.

For the first two years of the German occupation, Poulenc's activities were typical of most prominent French composers who had escaped capture by the German army. He composed and performed music, organized premieres of his new compositions, and published opinion pieces in the French press. As a composer, Poulenc worked on his largest project, the ballet Les Animaux modèles, from June 1940 to June 1942; by September 1942 he had also written one set of mélodies (Banalités, on the poetry of Apollinaire) and one of chansons (Chansons villageoises, on the stylized, folk-inspired poetry of Maurice Fombeure). Poulenc also agreed to write incidental music for two plays (Léocadia, by Jean Anouilh, and La fille du jardinier, by Charles Exbrayat) and one film (La Duchesse de Langeais, based on a story by Balzac). As a pianist Poulenc's frequent wartime recitals with Bernac consisted almost exclusively of French mélodies, by his predecessors (Chausson, Debussy, Duparc, Fauré, Ravel) as well as his contemporaries, several of whose works he and Bernac premiered.3 He recorded mélodies by Chausson and Fauré with Bernac in December 1940, with a second wartime recording project of Debussy's vocal music with soprano Lucienne Tragin in 1943.4 Poulenc also played his own music, performing his Concert champêtre with Charles Münch and the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire in February 1941 and with Gaston Poulet and the Concerts Gabriel Pierné in January 1942.5 As a music critic, Poulenc published three articles in early 1941 on composers who had profoundly influenced French music in the first half of the twentieth century: Stravinsky-he pleaded for more frequent performances of the composer "who honored us by applying for French citizenship"-Ravel, and Chabrier.6 And in May 1942 he praised Debussy for having given young French composers a model of "how to write music that is purely ours, whether it stems from Couperin, Berlioz, or Bizet."7 In March 1941 Poulenc teamed up with Roger Désormière to unearth Chabrier's earliest forays into the world of operetta (Fisch-Ton-Kan and Vaucochard et Fils 1er), paired with Rameau's Les Paladins, Stravinsky's Pulcinella, and Poulenc's own Aubade.

Poulenc's greatest wartime public success, the premiere of Les Animaux modèles at the Opéra on 8 August 1942, was a turning point. It was an event that implicated all the competing forces in occupied France. For the Vichy regime, although the ballet was not a state commission, it was exactly the kind of new French work that Vichy's new director of the Administration of Fine Arts, Louis Hautecœur, was seeking to produce with Vichy's expanded commissions program. It reflected nostalgia for the ancien régime in its setting and themes, and the playful seductiveness of its music was bound to appeal to a wide audience.8 As far as the German occupying forces were concerned, Poulenc's ballet was premiered in the shadows of the Opéra's production, one month earlier, of Werner Egk's Joan de Zarissa, a ballet imposed on the French theater as an example of German superiority in contemporary music. For the Resistance, Les Animaux modèles showed Poulenc, who had joined the Resistance group the Front national des musiciens (FNM) sometime in 1942, using his public persona as a quintessentially French musician as cover for a subtly subversive act. He inserted into the ballet's score several references to Alsace et Lorraine, a song written in 1871 to protest Germany's annexation of French territory following the Franco-Prussian War.

As a result, Poulenc's ballet meant many things to many people. The work's overt references to the time of Louis XIV coexisted with secret references to wounded French pride, while its emphasis on French identity typecast it as less substantial than an analogous German production. In the premiere, Serge Lifar, a notorious collaborator who choreographed the work and danced a leading role, appeared before an audience in which German military personnel were given the best seats, while in the pit, the orchestra was conducted by Désormière, one of the founding members of the FNM. In his program notes to accompany the premiere-printed in French and German to accommodate the occupying forces in the audience-Poulenc wrote, "There is no need to summarize fables that everyone knows," a tongue-in-cheek reminder that the fables, and perhaps also Alsace et Lorraine, were intimately known to the French, but not the German, members of the audience.9 The work's title had come from Paul Éluard, who was one of the best-known poets of the French Resistance and who had gone into hiding shortly before the ballet's premiere.10

In many respects Poulenc's was a typical wartime story. All composers who remained in occupied France had to contend with the same pressures. Several of them achieved public success, thanks in part to the increased funding for contemporary French music provided by Vichy after 1940. More than a few composed secret settings of clandestinely published poetry for postwar performance, as Poulenc did with his 1943 cantata for a cappella double choir, Figure humaine, culminating in his setting of Éluard's famous clandestine poem, "Liberté." Where Poulenc's story is unique is that he not only managed to achieve remarkable wartime success with his reputation intact, but he also dared to express during the war, onstage and in public, his profound dismay about the fate of his country, and he wrote a Resistance piece in secret that found eager and receptive audiences after the war.

In this chapter I explore the musical secrets in Les Animaux modèles in the context of the competing agendas of German and French officials for the repertory of the Opéra, epitomized in the juxtaposition of Poulenc's ballet with Egk's. I then discuss Poulenc's subsequent musical secrets: his Violin Sonata, with its overt homage to Federico García Lorca; the Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon, settings of clandestinely published poetry by a known member of the Resistance that were nevertheless performed and published in occupied Paris; and the wartime genesis and postwar reception of Figure humaine. Finally, I examine how Poulenc was received after the war as a celebrated national figure through his ability during the war to balance his life as a respected public figure with his composition and performance of musical secrets.

From Defeat to Renewal: Music and the Vichy Regime

In signing an armistice with Germany in June 1940, France faced severe conditions: occupation of the northern three-fifths of the country by German troops, with the costs paid for by France, and the demobilization of the French military, with over one and a half million French soldiers to be held in Germany until a peace treaty was signed. In early July 1940 the French parliament met in the resort town of Vichy, just south of the demarcation line between occupied and unoccupied zones, to plan the best way of negotiating a lasting peace. Pierre Laval, a prominent former prime minister in right-wing governments in the 1930s, argued that the country's institutions needed to be completely reformed in order to gain leverage in peace negotiations with Germany.11 A sweeping majority of ministers and parliamentarians agreed with him, voting the next day to dissolve the parliament, suspend the Republican constitution, and give full powers to the eighty-four-year-old Marshal Philippe Pétain. Pétain, military savior of France during the Great War, the "hero of Verdun," was now to become the spiritual savior of a nation too weak to defend itself with arms; he appointed Laval, a forceful advocate for collaboration with Germany, his prime minister.12

Few mourned the passing of the Third Republic. On the contrary, people from across the political spectrum embraced the new government's sweeping vision of reform, under the heading of National Revolution. It was apparent within political circles, however, long before the public became aware of it that the National Revolution was not just about renewal: it was also about revenge. The new regime's scapegoats were the old enemies of the political right: communists, Freemasons, Jews, and foreigners. The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, or PCF) had already been dissolved when war was declared in September 1939. By October 1940 Pétain issued decrees that outlawed "secret societies," forced schoolteachers to take a loyalty oath to the new regime, revoked the citizenship of recently naturalized French citizens, and severely restricted the professions that French Jews could practice.13

Faced with military defeat and economic disarray, the Vichy regime saw the cultural prestige of the country as the salvation of France. "France was not defeated on the battlefield of the arts," wrote Hautecœur, a university professor and museum curator who was appointed director of the Administration of Fine Arts on 21 July 1940. "Our architecture, our painting, our sculpture, [and] our music continue to inspire admiration."14 The minister of national education was a politically sensitive post, held by no fewer than six men between 1940 and 1944.15 By contrast, Hautecœur-traditional in his artistic tastes, faithful to Pétain in his social and political views, and nationalist in his defense of French culture-was able to maintain stability in the Administration of Fine Arts until he was replaced in March 1944. The administration under Hautecœur balanced its interests in defending French culture against German propaganda with the pragmatic realities facing a collaborationist regime. He used the Nazi Reich Music Chamber as a model, increasing funding for the composition, performance, publication, and recording of new French music.16 The combined result was a dramatic increase in public visibility for contemporary composers in wartime France.

Government interest in the arts was nothing new in France. Vichy nevertheless differed from its predecessors in the attention it gave to music among all the arts. The allocation for music in the budget of the Administration of Fine Arts increased sharply during the four years of occupation even as the administration's total budget decreased. As a result, funding for music accounted for more than a third of the total arts budget by 1944.17 Contemporary music was poised to benefit most of all, for what better way could there be to demonstrate the vitality of the nation than in its newest artistic productions? Alongside the increased levels of funding allotted to music, the Administration of Fine Arts proposed that higher sums be given to commissions of new works in both music and the visual arts.18 Vichy's Administration of Fine Arts provided music commissions with their highest level of funding ever in 1941 and maintained it for the duration of the war. Between September 1940 and August 1944 the administration issued sixty-five commissions to sixty-one French composers and paid them a total of 702,000 francs.19 Although this sum still constituted only a small fraction of the total devoted to generating new works of art, new music had finally found a permanent home in the government budget.

Hautecœur had discovered great potential in the music commissions program founded by Georges Huisman, his Popular Front predecessor, in 1938 as a form of unemployment compensation during tough economic times. Where Huisman's original conception began and ended with the idea of supporting composers in practicing their craft, Hautecœur was concerned with the eventual performance of the new works. In the context of the German occupation of France, it was not sufficient just to stimulate the production of new French music. It was crucial that this new production be demonstrated to a wide audience: to the French themselves, to maintain a sense of pride; to the German soldiers who now formed a large percentage of Parisian audiences; and to the outside world, which was nervously watching France as a case study of life in a Europe ruled by Nazi Germany. Hautecœur saw German interest in attending cultural events in Paris as a unique opportunity to increase the prestige of French culture in Germany. "These men, who came persuaded of our artistic decadence, discovered a modern school of composers, as well as singers, performers, and set designers that proved to them the vitality of our country," he would write after the war.20

To facilitate the performance of commissioned works in occupied Paris, Hautecœur provided additional grants to pay the copying fees and publication costs of commissioned pieces selected for performance. For this extra funding he turned to a new division of the Vichy government, the Office for the Fight against Unemployment (Commissariat à la lutte contre le chômage). In the 1943 budget this office supplied 9.3 million francs to the Administration of Fine Arts to provide work for unemployed artists and musicians, to assist students at the Conservatoire, and to subsidize orchestras and concert series in the provinces.21 Of this sum, approximately 121,000 francs went over the next two years to fifteen different composers to help get their commissioned works performed.

More substantial changes in the conception of the commissions program came during 1941, when Hautecœur's administration expanded its funding to performance institutions in exchange for an increase in the stipulated percentage of programming devoted to French music in general and new French music in particular. The basic requirement to perform works by living French composers had long been part of the state's funding programs for the Opéra, the Opéra-Comique, and the four Paris orchestras. Jacques Rouché, who as director had been active since 1914 in soliciting new works for the Opéra, had welcomed the commissions program in 1938 (and its first completed opera, Darius Milhaud's Médée) as a means of overcoming the Opéra's traditional resistance to new music. The increased percentages of required new French music now meant that all of the state-funded institutions were obliged to embark on a search for new works to perform. Those recently commissioned by the state provided a readily available repertoire. Composers could now expect financial and institutional support for their work, from conception to performance by the country's most prestigious musicians.

In January 1941 the current minister of national education, Jacques Chevalier, signed into law at Vichy more specific directives on how the French opera houses would function.22 Included in that law were requirements to schedule each year at least two evenings at the Opéra and three at the Opéra-Comique that consisted of new productions whose composers and librettists were French. These stipulations posed no difficulties for Rouché, who negotiated the theaters' reopening with the German occupying forces in August 1940.23 The Opéra-Comique opened its fall 1940 season with Carmen on 22 August, and La Damnation de Faust appeared two days later at the Opéra. An article in Paris-Soir alerted the public that the regular weekly schedule of three operas and one ballet would continue just as before.24 As the head of both theaters (united as the Réunion des Théâtres lyriques nationaux, or RTLN, in January 1939), Rouché resumed his work in reviving French repertoire and looking for new works to produce. Among them were a new Pelléas et Mélisande to mark the fortieth anniversary of the premiere; Fauré's Pénélope; new ballets by Poulenc, Claude Delvincourt, and Maurice Jaubert; and Antigone, by Arthur Honegger and Jean Cocteau. At the same time, Rouché's attention was focused on the new operas and ballets that might cross his desk through government commissions. Before the end of the war he would stage three commissioned operas and plan two others for 1944-45. With Serge Lifar working as both choreographer and star performer in ballets at the Opéra, the occupation was also a golden age for French ballet both old and new-including two state commissions.25

Although Rouché had put significant effort into new wartime productions of French operas, it was the wartime productions of new French ballets that won unprecedented popularity among Opéra audiences. By 1940 Lifar's decade of hard work in restoring the corps de ballet at the Opéra to the high standards of the turn of the century had paid off. A choreographer and dancer of great talent and star appeal, Lifar had a large following not only in Paris but across Europe as well. He had convinced Rouché to discontinue the practice of performing ballets and operas on single bills, which he feared gave audiences the impression that ballet was of secondary importance. Having established himself at the Opéra with a mixture of new choreography for beloved old scores and ballets that had been expressly commissioned for him, he maintained both aspects of his work during the war.26 By 1944 the Opéra had produced eight new ballets to recently composed scores by French composers, to which Lifar supplied the choreography and danced, in most cases the title role.

Lifar's ambition since his appointment at the Opéra in 1930 had been to reestablish the preeminence of French ballet in the European dance world. After the defeat he multiplied his contacts with both French and German authorities in order to maintain the Opéra's position as the leading institution of European ballet. Left in charge in June 1940 when Rouché retreated south to Cahors with the company in advance of the German army's arrival in Paris, Lifar followed the advice of both Laval and Otto Abetz, the German ambassador to France, in readying the Opéra to reopen its doors as soon as possible. As nominal head of the prestigious institution, Lifar narrowly avoided having to give Hitler a tour of the premises in the early morning of 23 June, but he soon came into contact with Bernard Radermacher-the personal representative in Paris of Josef Goebbels, head of the Reich Ministry of Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, or RMVP) in Berlin-and Goebbels himself, who passed through Paris in early July. Lifar sought to expand upon this early contact by inviting the Reich minister to return to Paris for the reopening of the Opéra in the fall.27 He also arranged for Radermacher to bring reporters to ballet rehearsals, resulting in front-page photos of Lifar and his dancers that publicized the fact that the coming season would be as brilliant as ever.

After Rouché returned to Paris in the fall and took over the leadership of the Opéra, Lifar focused his energy on ballet and its future in the new Europe. He worked hard to make the connection between his dance renaissance and the heritage of the Romantic masters, outlining the history of French ballet in the past hundred years from Giselle to the present in a series of articles in the new weekly journal, L'Information musicale. Lifar called his own work "neoclassical," explaining that his desire was to bring together the strict vocabulary of academic ballet from the Romantic era with a modified version of the experimental style to which he had been exposed as a member of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.28 With great fanfare he oversaw an exhibit on Romantic ballet at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1942 in cooperation with the Opéra archives and the Vienna National Library. That year Lifar traveled to Germany on three separate occasions, promoting his pan-European vision of dance with a film entitled Symphonie en blanc that was screened at the RMVP in Berlin. He also proposed to Abel Bonnard, minister of national education, that it was in the national interest to found a new school of choreography. While it was true, he argued, that French ballet had recently regained its status in Europe after decades of decline, the Opéra's position was precarious as long as he was the only qualified choréauteur available. It was therefore crucial to take advantage of the current enthusiasm of the French public by founding a school that would ensure that Paris would remain the dance capital of the world. Lifar proposed that he himself would be the best candidate to direct such a school, for despite his foreign birth, he was, like the great choréauteurs of the nineteenth century, fully naturalized as a Frenchman.29

The French press enthusiastically embraced the possibility of enhancing the prestige of France by framing Lifar's successes at the Opéra in nationalist terms. Events like the centenary performance of Giselle using Lifar's 1932 choreography, and the unveiling of his new choreography of Sylvia-at three acts, his longest work-to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Delibes, gave them a lot to praise in the first half of 1941. Lifar's newest ballet, Philippe Gaubert's Le Chevalier et la Damoiselle, was the dance event of the summer. Dance critics applauded Lifar's efforts to turn away from modernist experimentation in favor of the traditions of academic ballet. Those dancers who were still dazzled by the "religion of choreographic liberty" espoused by Isadora Duncan and others, wrote Henriette Blond in the November 1943 issue of La Chronique de Paris (a monthly journal aspiring to replace the Nouvelle Revue française after it ceased publication in July 1943), were now outnumbered by a younger generation more fascinated by the expressive possibilities of solid technical skills than by the "exceedingly dry mechanical asceticism" of years past.30 Moreover, by reviving dance at the Opéra itself, Lifar was at once restoring the glories of a venerable institution and fulfilling his own visions of dance. "Few theaters from around the world can pride themselves on a choreographic repertoire this vast and varied, on a school of dance so well trained and so rich in major works," gushed Arthur Hoérée at the end of the 1940-41 season. "In this passing of the torch, one has to admit that Serge Lifar has carried the flame entrusted to him higher and further than any other, at a more pressing rate and with the fervor of a priest."31

Two sumptuous books published in 1943 used copious illustrations and descriptive text to commemorate Lifar's achievements at the Opéra. The first, Ballets de l'Opéra de Paris, by dance historian Léandre Vaillat, was a chronological survey of French ballet since 1900, with special emphasis on Lifar's recent work. The second, Serge Lifar à l'Opéra, was a limited-edition art book with large folio sketches of Lifar's many ballets. Paul Valéry and Jean Cocteau contributed texts to drawings by Lucienne Pageot-Rousseaux in an effort to memorialize the ephemeral art of choreography.32 The music critic Émile Vuillermoz, a staunch supporter of Lifar, praised the "triple academic collaboration" of Valéry, Cocteau, and Lifar for making such a priceless contribution to the libraries of dance lovers everywhere.33 Even those who resented Lifar's high-profile associations with French and German political figures could not deny the broad appeal of his work.

Poulenc's Les Animaux modèles took its place among the new French ballets choreographed and danced by Lifar with its premiere at the Opéra on 8 August 1942. In writing his new ballet, Poulenc had set out to make its Frenchness as unmistakable as possible. He imagined the fables in a seventeenth-century setting, "the century of Louis XIV, which is also that of Pascal," because, as he later explained, "no other era in history is more specifically French."34 The ballet was set in the courtyard of a farm somewhere in Périgord or the Dordogne, a tribute to the region where Poulenc had been stationed in summer 1940. Poulenc gave the fables a pastoral aura of peace and goodwill by framing the story with the sight of the farmers leaving for the fields in the morning at the raising of the curtain, and their return for their noonday meal at the end. The dancers themselves were dressed not as animals but in the style of the gentlemen and ladies at the court of the Sun King. Three of the fables-"The Bear and the Two Schemers," "Middle Age and Two Possible Wives," and "Death and the Woodcutter"-concentrated on the foibles of human characters. For the others, Poulenc transformed the animals, already thinly disguised in the original, into actual human beings. In "The Grasshopper and the Ant," the happy-go-lucky grasshopper is a prima donna who is now past her prime, and the besotted beast in "The Lion in Love" is a rake whose seduction of a young girl is thwarted by her irate father. In "The Two Roosters," Poulenc added a twentieth-century twist by playing on the slang meaning of la poule: the "hens" dance a French cancan, baring their legs in short tutus while wearing a few feathers in their hair. According to Lifar, the decision to humanize the beasts had little in common with the histoires naturelles in vogue after the last war. Instead, the idea was to revive the spirit of the ballets de cour of seventeenth-century France by choreographing the fables "just as they would have been done when La Fontaine was alive."35 References to the French cultural heritage, and to the grand siècle in particular, permeated every aspect of the ballet's conception.

Poulenc's music delighted the critics. Honegger wrote that the early influences of Chabrier, Stravinsky, and Satie had been assimilated to such a degree that the composer had made their sounds his own. "At every turn," he marveled, "a melodic contour or a harmonic progression causes us to say 'that's so Poulenc.'" Marcel Delannoy detected a kindred spirit in Poulenc's embrace of demi-caractère, made manifest in the juxtaposition of divertissement and poésie, Chabrier's tenderness with the grandeur of Stravinsky. Could anyone imagine, he asked, a more appropriate writer for Poulenc than La Fontaine?36

Poulenc's wartime efforts reflect not only his desire to promote French culture at a time of national crisis, but also a lifelong passion for expressing a distinctly French national identity. Just as he sought in Les Animaux modèles to explore the Frenchness of La Fontaine and the court of Louis XIV, in his songs he selected texts that drew on a wide range of national imagery, from the urban (Poulenc remarked that he chose "Voyage à Paris" in Banalités because "when it comes to Paris, I often cry or sing") to the rural (he wrote to André Schaeffner that his Chansons villageoises were "Pribaoutki from the Morvan").37 With Bernac, Poulenc organized thematic programs based on the French repertoire, such as a February 1941 lecture-recital at the Théâtre des Mathurins entitled "Chabrier-Debussy-Poulenc," and a March 1941 program at the Salle Gaveau in which Poulenc and Bernac performed musical selections in alternation with recitations of French poetry on the theme "Baudelaire, Verlaine, Apollinaire and Five of their Musicians: Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Debussy, Honegger, Poulenc." Poulenc's article on Chabrier was unabashedly rehabilitative: having seen the Opéra-Comique's elaborate new production of L'Étoile, Poulenc reported, he was convinced that Chabrier was the clear precursor of several French composers, most of whom were shameless about their disavowal of his influence. Not, however, the most esteemed: "Messager was passionate about L'Étoile; Debussy and Ravel recognized a masterpiece. What a consolation!"38

It is hardly surprising, then, that Poulenc's passionate advocacy for French music and culture should have led him to participate in activities that were specifically aimed at the renewal of France through the promotion of its cultural heritage. His initial public appearance after June 1940 as composer and pianist, performing the premiere of his Sextet for Piano and Winds, took place on 9 December 1940 in a concert of the Association de musique contemporaine. This group was organized by Robert Bernard, who had founded L'Information musicale as a wartime replacement for both Revue musicale and the Guide du concert, and its concerts were held at the new journal's headquarters.39 The first five concerts of the association in November-December 1940 sought to balance the best of French music written before 1918 with the most promising music of the present day. Works such as Franck's Piano Quintet, Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, piano pieces by Chabrier, and mélodies by Gounod were juxtaposed with those of Delannoy, Honegger, and Messiaen, and two new works were given premieres: on 25 November, Jean Rivier's Symphonie en sol majeur (a 1938 state commission), and on 9 December, Poulenc's Sextet. The message of the concerts was clear. The solid values of French music composed before the First World War would not only provide a foundation for the future; they would also contribute to the shared goals necessary for the formation of a New French School.40

Officially, Poulenc participated in two Vichy administration committees: Henri Rabaud's Professional Committee of Dramatic Authors, Composers, and Music Editors (Comité professionnel des auteurs dramatiques, compositeurs et éditeurs de la musique) and Alfred Cortot's Professional Committee of Musical Arts and Private Music Education (Comité professionnel de l'art musical et de l'enseignement libre de la musique).41 However, he was often absent from Paris, preferring his country home in Noizay, in the occupied zone some 140 miles southwest of the capital. And after two years of living under German occupation, Poulenc's public participation in the renewal of France gradually began to coexist with a number of small but significant gestures of defiance.

Challenges from Berlin: Music and the German Occupying Forces

There was a particular urgency underlying French decisions regarding the performance of contemporary French music during the war. Behind the idealized visions of French officials such as Hautecœur and Rouché lay a harsh reality: the French had to act defensively at a time when the nation's capital and northern three-fifths were occupied by a conquering power. In the summer of 1940, while the French government worked out new laws and policies and made changes in personnel, the German occupying forces moved into their headquarters in Paris. German agencies in Paris consisted of the Propaganda Division for France (Propaganda Abteilung Frankreich, or PAF), which was linked to the Wehrmacht and Goebbels's RMVP and also had bureaus throughout the provinces; the German embassy (with Otto Abetz as ambassador to France); and the Institut allemand (a cultural center run by Karl Epting). The latter two were attached to the foreign ministry in Berlin.42

By allowing an active and diverse cultural life in occupied France, German officials hoped to encourage collaboration by showing that there was a role for French culture in the new Nazi Europe. They also sought to maintain social order by distracting the population from the hardships of war. The presence of "normal" cultural events served to both stabilize the population and use that stability as evidence of the acceptability of German rule throughout the European continent. By the end of 1940, thirty-four theaters, fourteen music halls, two circuses, six cabarets, and around thirty cinemas had opened their doors in Paris alone.43 By September 1940 the PAF had also created a new French-language radio station, Radio-Paris, which was controlled by the German occupiers but financed entirely by the French state. Radio-Paris broadcast musical performances-which constituted over two-thirds of its broadcast time-alongside pro-German news and opinions.44 Here one could listen to live broadcasts from the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées of the Grande Orchestre de Radio-Paris led by France and Germany's most talented conductors, or hear the orchestra of Raymond Legrand accompanying France's most famous popular singers. Listings in the station's weekly magazine Les Ondes advertised programming that was both stellar and diverse: in 1942 alone there were appearances by Maurice Chevalier, Jacques Jansen, Germaine Lubin, Charles Panzéra, and Alfred Cortot; organ recitals by Marcel Dupré broadcast directly from the church of Saint-Sulpice; Wilhelm Mengelberg conducting the orchestra of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam; and the Berlin Philharmonic led by Clemens Krauss.45

After the armistice Vichy's own state radio station, Radiodiffusion nationale, set up its studios in unoccupied territory in Marseille. Vichy imitated its totalitarian neighbors by coordinating what had previously been independent radio stations into a national network financed by state subsidies instead of by advertisements. Since June 1940, however, German occupying authorities controlled the broadcast stations and antennas of the northern occupied zone, including the Paris metropolitan region. Radiodiffusion nationale desperately needed access to Parisian institutions such as the opera houses, orchestras, and music halls to compete with Radio-Paris for listeners. Émile Vuillermoz, who was in charge of programming for the radio in Marseille, wrote a panicked letter to Hautecœur soon after the latter's appointment at the Administration of Fine Arts, urging him to do something either to enable Radiodiffusion nationale to return to Paris or to come to an understanding with the PAF about broadcast rights from the capital. Since the broadcasts of Radio-Paris were by French people, he stated, the German-sponsored broadcasts, and not those of Vichy, were accepted abroad as the authorized voice of France. Radio-Paris could be heard across Europe; as long as Radiodiffusion nationale was in Marseille, it could not compete. If France was going to collaborate with Germany anyway, Vuillermoz pressed Hautecœur, why not find a more viable solution in tandem with Germany's own plans?46

In September 1941 Radiodiffusion nationale received an important concession from Germany when it regained the right to broadcast musical productions from Paris twice weekly. That same month the Orchestre national, under the direction of Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, began again to perform live radio broadcasts, first from Marseille and then, after Radiodiffusion nationale relocated to the French capital in March 1943, from Paris. To compete more effectively with Radio-Paris, in August 1943 Vichy increased the musical component of Radiodiffusion nationale from 45 percent of its programming to 60 percent and made sure that o