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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4
Recording details: March 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 31 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'.' (TheArtsDesk.com)

Le disparu, FP134
First line:
Je n’aime plus la rue Saint-Martin
composer
1946; à Henri Sauget
author of text
Couplets de la rue Saint-Martin

Introduction
Desnos’s title is Couplets de la rue Saint-Martin, a poem from 1942 which anticipates, in eerie prophecy, his own arrest (a fact not lost on the composer of course) and which bemoans the disappearance of the fictional ‘André Platard’, as the Gestapo close in on a cell of the resistance. Poulenc casts the whole song as a valse-musette (the marking is Tempo de Valse à 1 temps, très allant), and calls it ‘a Lied-chanson in the style of Môme Piaf’. He uses changes of key in a progression of thirds (A major—D flat major—F major, and so on) to ratchet up the tension while the texture changes from effulgent to bare-as-bones over the song’s four pages. In JdmM the composer notes three moods: ‘the dance with accordion band, the peal of bells, the funeral march’. The music for the poem’s third verse gets faster as if in panic, the final page seems lost and hopeless while never really relaxing the pulse. This is a tense yet poetic song in memory of a harrowing epoch.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

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