Francis Poulenc composed Gloria in 1959 and 1960. It was premiered by Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1961.
Gloria lasts about 25 minutes. It is a six-movement setting of the Gloria text from the Roman Catholic mass.
Gloria was reviewed positively by both major Boston newspaper critics: “One of the French composer’s major scores and an exceedingly fine work” and a “major work, prominent in the career of a contemporary master and a significant addition to the repertory of twentieth-century music.”
Gloria is one of British physicist Stephen Hawking’s favorite pieces of music. He first heard it during a conference in Aspen and in an interview said “Next door to the physics center is an enormous tent where they hold a music festival. As you sit working out what happens when black holes evaporate, you can hear the rehearsals. It combines my two main pleasures: physics and music. If I could have both on my desert island, I won't want to be rescued.”
Poulenc’s score calls for soprano soloist, mixed chorus, and a full orchestra with 2 flutes, 2 piccolos, 2 oboes and English horn, 2 clarinets and bass clarinet, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and tuba, timpani, harp, and the usual string section of violins, violas, cellos, and basses.