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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Vocalise, FP44

February 1927; commissioned by Amédée Hettich

Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
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: 3 minutes 17 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Sarah Fox (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


'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)
This ‘Air sans paroles’ (as it was known in the Poulenc circle at the time) was one of a huge series of such pieces commissioned, ostensibly for teaching purposes, by Amédée Hettich, singing professor of the Conservatoire, and published by Leduc. In a list of the fifty-nine vocalises for high voice Poulenc takes his place besides such composers as Fauré, Messiaen, Milhaud, Ravel (the most famous of them all—the Pièce en forme de habanera) and even the young Aaron Copland. He writes a dramatic and angular piece of high seriousness in B minor which makes considerable technical demands. If it is true that in 1927 he has not yet found his ‘voice’, the singer has to find hers from the very first bar. The music in his occasional marche funèbre style—albeit in triple time—reminds us of the earlier Chanson à boire. It has a severity and a bleakness that is not at all characteristic of Poulenc’s later vocal works, although the mood of this music makes a rare reappearance in Le mendiant from Chansons villageoises. This is a far cry from the transparent femininity of the Vilmorin settings; if those later delights might be characterized as Poulenc’s Così fan tutte songs, this Vocalise (performed several times by Jane Bathori and the composer) brings to mind Gluck’s uncompromising Iphigénie.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 5
Studio Master: SIGCD333Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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