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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4
Recording details: January 2012
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 2 minutes 8 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)

Rosemonde, FP158
First line:
Longtemps au pied du perron de
composer
May 1954
author of text
1913; from Alcools

Introduction
This is the only one of Poulenc’s Apollinaire settings to be taken from the collection Alcools (1913). Apart from a tiny fragment from Le bestiaire—a pièce d’occasion—this is Poulenc’s farewell to the poet who had played such a crucial part in his life as a song composer. The setting unfolds gently and persuasively—at this stage of his career Poulenc was an absolute master of unforced wistfulness. As the song was given its first performance in Amsterdam in October 1954, the composer may well have chosen to set this poem with that occasion in mind. The title is perhaps related to the mistress of the English Plantagenet King, Henry II, the same Rosemonde who inspired the similarly mysterious Duparc setting Le manoir de Rosemonde; Apollinaire was so well-read in medieval history that it may refer to another famous Rosemonde—this time from Lombardy. There could of course have been a real Rosemonde at some point in the poet’s life (not one of the famously documented lovers), or the name could even refer to Schubert’s Rosamunde D797—bearing in mind that this composer was Apollinaire’s favourite above all others.

from notes by Graham Johnson 2013

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