Music: Poulenc's Maturity

French Composer Francis Poulenc has a favorite religious scene: the painting by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) in one corner of which a small rabbit crouches unaware of the tragedy being unfolded on the Mount of Olives behind him. It is the kind of light but not irreverent touch that Roman Catholic Poulenc himself strives for in many of his religious works. Last week the Boston Symphony introduced U.S. audiences to the latest and perhaps most contrast-filled of Poulenc's compositions—his Gloria, in which he says he tried "to write a joyous hymn to the glory of God."

If the piece suggests Mantegna in mood,...

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