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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: 12 minutes 15 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 travail du peintre, FP161
composer
August 1956; commissioned by Alice Esty who gave the first performance in Paris in 1957, the composer at the piano
author of text
1948; Voir

Introduction
Poulenc had an impeccable eye for art and could write about pictures with great perspicacity. Extracts from a journal that he kept on a visit to America describe graphically (in every sense) his museum visits and his enchanted reactions to paintings by Zurbarán, Ingres, David, Daubigny, Chardin. But it was of course the paintings of his contemporaries that interested him most—and particularly the painters that were dear to his two great poets Éluard and Apollinaire. ‘I thought it would stimulate my work to paint musically’, wrote Poulenc in JdmM. When the composer told Éluard about his plan to write a cycle about painters, the poet ‘half-promised’ to write a poem about Henri Matisse, the painter from whom Poulenc had apparently learned a great deal about economy of style, the paring down to essentials of his piano-writing texture. (Apollinaire writes movingly about Matisse in Il y a.) Éluard was so close to Picasso (someone remarked that the love between them was the love of equals) that he was only lukewarm in his appreciation of Matisse. In any case, why should Éluard publish a poem in praise of a painter who had been so closely associated with the dreaded Louis Aragon and whose genius, moreover, rivalled that of the easily offended Catalonian colossus? The cycle was commissioned by the American soprano Alice Esty, who gave the first performances in both Paris (1957, with the composer) and New York (1958); needless to say, there was no Matisse to end the cycle in the ‘joy and sunlight’ Poulenc had envisaged. The texts are taken from Voir (1948), an anthology of Éluard poems, mostly old, some new, about the artists the poet had most admired, who had been an integral part of his life and work. The large-format publication permits illustrations, some in colour, taken in part from the poet’s own dazzling collection. Works by all the painters in Poulenc’s cycle were owned by Éluard at different times in his life, paintings and drawings by Picasso (including numerous depictions of Nusch) outnumbering the others.

from notes by Graham Johnson 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2' (SIGCD263)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2
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