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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4
Recording details: May 2010
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 1 minutes 48 seconds

'Johnson's playing is marvellous, virtuosic where needed, but above all attuned to every nuance of his singers. This really is a multifaceted release: the blending of the art forms that was characteristic of Poulenc's time, where poets were absorbed by painters, and composers by poets, alongside the 15 singers gathered on these discs, together with the chameleon-like nature of Poulenc's own genius, all make for an enterprise of dazzling complexity. The recording quality is exemplary, combining clarity with a perfect bloom on the piano sound' (International Record Review)

'There are some outstanding performances: Christopher Maltman's account of Miroirs brûlants and La fraîcheur et le feu (both based on Eluard), and the Calligrammes (on Apollinaire's texts) are worth the price on their own, while Sarah Fox is just as persuasive in Les chemins de l'amour as she is in Tel jour telle nuit. There are telling contributions, too, from Ailish Tynan, Susan Bickley and Ben Johnson, and a brief appearance in the Quatre chansons pour enfants by the English grande dame of French song Felicity Lott. Touchingly, one work also features the voice of baritone Pierre Bernac, Poulenc's recital partner, for whom many of the songs were composed; he's the narrator in a 1977 recording of L'histoire de Babar and the whole set is dedicated to his memory. It's a gorgeous collection, and for sometime Poulenc sceptics like me, a real revelation' (The Guardian) » More

'Especially enjoyable is the final disc, subtitled Fancy. Soprano Susan Bickley is superb in Poulenc’s early Poèmes de Ronsard—sparky settings of Renaissance poetry, and Ashley Riches has fun with the better-known Chansons gaillardes. The Huit chansons polonaises, sung by Agnieszka Adamczak, pay oblique homage to Poulenc’s beloved Chopin. There’s not a weak link among the vocal cast, and there’s even a cameo from the great Felicity Lott. A wonderful bonus is the inclusion of a 1970s BBC taping of Babar, narrated with impeccable grace and wit by Poulenc’s long-time recital partner Pierre Bernac. Johnson’s accessible, comprehensive notes deserve to be published in book form, and Hyperion generously provide full texts and translations. These songs will comfort the most jaded of palates, and this box set contains enough riches to sustain a lifetime’s listening. In Johnson’s words, Poulenc’s music 'has seemed dark and joyous, accessible and remote, imperishable yet infinitely fragile, and now it is in the hands of a younger generation'.' (

Fancy, FP174
August 1959
author of text
The Merchant of Venice III:2

Other recordings available for download
Sarah Walker (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
The plays of Shakespeare (and this poem comes from the casket scene in The Merchant of Venice) were out of the range of Poulenc’s usual literary interests. Marion, Countess of Harewood, invited Poulenc to contribute a setting to Classical Songs for Children, an anthology she had put together with Ronald Duncan, published in 1964. She asked Britten and Kodály to set the same poem and all three composers obliged; it was the Countess’s close link with Britten that worked wonders, though the other composers took longer than Poulenc to answer the request. Poulenc disliked visiting seaside towns, and was intensely uncomfortable in Aldeburgh for his one and only visit there in 1956, but he was fond of Britten and Pears (and they of him) and he was a deep admirer of Britten’s genius. This little setting was dedicated ‘To Miles and Flora’, the child characters in Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw. Poulenc consulted Bernac regarding the English prosody, and still failed to get it absolutely right … ‘Or in the heart, or in the head?’). The song makes a charming epilogue to a disc that shows his ability to encompass different national styles and evoke the music of earlier epochs. It is, of course, Poulenc’s only song in English and part of its enduring charm is that it is utterly un-English in style.

from notes by Graham Johnson 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4' (SIGCD323)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 48 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 48 kHz £9.00 SIGCD323  Download only   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Shakespeare's Kingdom' (CDA66136)
Shakespeare's Kingdom

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