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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: 7 minutes 57 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)

La dame de Monte-Carlo, FP180
First line:
Quand on est morte entre les mortes
composer
April 1961; monologue pour soprano et orchestre; dedicated to Denise Duval
author of text
from Théâtre de poche

Other recordings available for download
Sarah Fox (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Introduction
Pierre Bernac retired from the concert platform in 1959. Soon afterwards Poulenc created a duo with the soprano Denise Duval (born 1921) who was to be his recital partner until his death. Apart from Duval singing the leading roles in the composer’s two operas Les mamelles de Tirésias and Dialogues des Carmélites, Poulenc was to write three works for her: the role of ‘Elle’ in his one-woman ‘tragédie lyrique’, La voix humaine (Cocteau, 1958), the song cycle La courte paille (1960), and La dame de Monte-Carlo, dedicated to Duval, a ‘monologue for soprano and orchestra’, often performed with piano, and with which Poulenc significantly concludes his Journal de mes Mélodies. The poem is taken from Jean Cocteau’s Théâtre de poche, a collection of fourteen small dramas; La dame de Monte-Carlo had been written for the singer-actress Marianne Oswald (1901–1985) and recorded by her in 1936, a mannered recitation where only the ‘Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo’ refrain (appearing three times) is sung and accompanied by piano.

In JdmM Poulenc wrote: ‘This monologue delighted me because it brought back to me the years 1923–1925 when I lived, together with Auric, in Monte Carlo, in the imperial shadow of Diaghilev [the composer was there preparing the première of his ballet Les biches]. I have often enough seen at close quarters those old wrecks of women, light-fingered ladies of the gaming tables. In all honesty I must admit that Auric and I even came across them at the pawnshop where our imprudent youth led us once or twice.’ For this portrait of a woman d’un âge avancé, addicted to gambling, down at heel and also fatally down on her luck, Poulenc creates a scène in various sections with a main tempo of Lent et triste—faster, edgier and more nervous at times, but basically sad and pathetic amidst her displays of outrage. The woman is almost stoically set on suicide when there seems to be no other financial option. Poulenc abbreviates Cocteau’s second and third refrains by ignoring the ‘etc.’ written after the words ‘Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo’. We might imagine the woman jumping into the sea as she cries out that name, sacred to all gamblers, one last time—the final staccato in the piano signifying a small inconsequential splash. One can certainly see in the background to this choice of scenario signs of the composer’s own depression, his fear that he had written himself out, and that he too was scarcely able to contemplate a future when he was less in command of his powers than he always had been.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013


Other albums featuring this work
'Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4' (SIGCD323)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 48 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 48 kHz £9.00 SIGCD323  Download only   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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