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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4
Recording details: May 2011
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 1 minutes 54 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'.' (

Ce doux petit visage, FP99
First line:
Rien que ce doux petit visage
April 1939; dedicated to the memory of Raymonde Linossier
author of text
1938; the final part of Passionnement, from Cours naturel

Other recordings available for download
Lorna Anderson (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
This is a remarkably tender poem of Éluard set to remarkably moving music. The poem is taken from the collection Cours naturel (1938), the volume as a whole dedicated to Nusch. The poem Passionnement (pp 18–24) is divided into seven parts of which this is the last. Poulenc dedicates the song to the memory of Raymonde Linossier, the marvellous but complicated girl he had wanted to marry in his youth, and who turned his proposal of marriage down. According to Poulenc (JdmM) she had been one of his best musical advisers. Another song dedicated to Raymonde is Voyage at the end of Calligrammes; that Poulenc’s memory of her should have been linked to two such wonderful songs is an indication of her importance in his life. Accordingly this is one of the few Éluard settings which suits a female voice better than a male (on the whole the songs are remarkably asexual, despite their erotic power). It is the inscrutability of Éluard’s words, their mystery, that gives this music the dignity to refute all sentimentality. The first eight bars of the song float like a bird in the ether of the treble clef, unanchored by the bass; thereafter the music has a sumptuous warmth, and a remarkably lyrical vocal line: haunting melancholy, precious memories turned into sound, perfection of a kind, and vintage Poulenc.

from notes by Graham Johnson 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2' (SIGCD263)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 SIGCD263  Download only   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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