Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a French composer and pianist. His compositions include songs, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas, ballets, and orchestral concert music. Among the best-known are the Organ Concerto, the opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, and the Gloria for soprano, choir, and orchestra.
Poulenc studied with the pianist Ricardo Viñes, who became his mentor. Poulenc also made the acquaintance of Erik Satie, under whose tutelage he became one of a group of young composers known collectively as "Les Six". In his early works Poulenc became known for his high spirits and irreverence. During the 1930s a much more serious side to his nature emerged, particularly in the religious music he composed from 1936 onwards, which he alternated with his more light-hearted works.
The organ concerto was commissioned by Princess Edmond de Polignac in 1934, as a piece with a chamber orchestra accompaniment and an easy organ part that the princess could probably play herself. Poulenc accepted the commission after it was declined by Jean Françaix.
Poulenc himself had never actually composed for the organ before. He studied the great baroque masterpieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and Dieterich Buxtehude and the work's neo-baroque feel reflects this. Poulenc was also advised about the instrument's registration and other elements by Maurice Duruflé, who also gave the premiere.