This is Poulenc’s most famous cycle for the female voice. Having set three of Vilmorin’s poems at the end of 1937 he now returned to her work with renewed delight, all too aware that his beloved ‘Loulou’ had moved to Hungary to live with her husband Count Pálffy in his castle. The composer missed her, and during the war years he spoke of her as a prisoner on her husband’s estates (a true Parisian—like Poulenc—regarded any exile from Paris as something unimaginably tiresome). It was the composer’s initial idea to write a cycle of male songs for Bernac, but the choice of texts proved difficult (there were other composers like Georges Auric who were equally keen to set Vilmorin’s words). Instead he was drawn into the idea of making a short and concise cycle in the manner of Schumann’s Elisabeth Kulmann songs Op 104. To imitate Schumann he had originally planned a seven-song set, but six songs proved sufficient in the end.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013