Les biches

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Les biches is a ballet by Francis Poulenc, premiered by the Ballets Russes in 1924. The composer, who was at the time relatively unknown, was asked by Serge Diaghilev to write a piece based on Glazunov's Les Sylphides, written seventeen years earlier. Poulenc, however, chose to base his work on the paintings of Watteau that depicted Louis XV and various women in his "Parc aux biches"; the word biche usually translated as hind, or a female deer. Poulenc described his work as a "contemporary drawing room party suffused with an atmosphere of wantonness, which you sense if you are corrupted, but of which an innocent-minded girl would not be conscious." Diaghilev recognized the great potential of the ballet and produced it for the 1924 Ballet Russes season, bringing Poulenc into the forefront of French music. Les biches was well received by critics, with Henri Malherbe of Time calling it "very attaching and original". Poulenc continually revised the music up through the 1940s, eventually reducing it to an orchestral suite in five movements.

The ballet, written in a light and frothy style, is in turns reminiscent of Mozart, Scarlatti, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky, mirroring the style of Saint-Saëns's private composition The Carnival of the Animals. Les biches, alongside the pit orchestra, uses a hidden chorus, found before in French music only in Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé. The work was choreographed by the famous Bronislava Nijinska and its set and...
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