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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4
Recording details: September 2011
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 5 minutes 13 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)

Toréador, FP11
First line:
Pépita reine de Venise
composer
Autumn 1918, revised 1932; 'Chanson hispano-italienne'; dedicated À Pierre Bertin
author of text

Other recordings available for download
Richard Jackson (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançais
Poulenc makes his song-composing debut under Jean Cocteau’s wing—the chanson was more or less commissioned (without fee of course!) for a Cocteau-inspired ‘Séance’ a the Vieux-Colombier Music-Hall, crossover 1918-style, where it was almost certainly sung with instrumental accompaniment by its dedicatee, the singing actor Pierre Bertin (1891–1984), the husband of the famous pianist Marcelle Meyer. It so happens that he was the exact namesake of another Pierre Bertin (1899–1979) who was later forced to change his stage name (being the younger member of the actors’ union) to Pierre Bernac. Poulenc used to sing this silly song himself, to the delight of his friends, and was eventually persuaded to publish it, doing so only in 1932. It is a strictly strophic creation, in the manner of a popular hit, the refrain sung slower the third time around. The words are sheer whimsy: the story concerns Pépita, so-called queen of Venice for whom the toreador conceives an unrequited passion. In the manner of a Peter Blake montage the bullring is transported to Venice’s Piazza San Marco, gondoliers become Spanish galleons and the oldest doge in the city enjoys Pépita’s favours, all sheer insouciant nonsense, quasi-surrealist.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013


Other albums featuring this work
'Poulenc: Voyage à Paris' (CDH55366)
Poulenc: Voyage à Paris
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55366  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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