Hyperion Records

Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d'Orphée, FP15a
1918/9; dedicated to Louis Durey
author of text
Nos 10, 4, 17, 19, 22 and 23 of Le bestiaire

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Le Bestiaire
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No 1: Le dromadaire  Avec ses quatre dromadaires
No 2: La chèvre du Thibet  Les poils de cette chèvre et même
No 3: La sauterelle  Voici la fine sauterelle
No 4: Le dauphin  Dauphins, vous jouez dans la mer
No 5: L'écrevisse  Incertitude, ô mes délices
No 6: La carpe  Dans vos viviers, dans vos étangs

Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d'Orphée, FP15a
Apollinaire, a great bibliophile, knew all about the exquisitely illustrated medieval bestiaries; in 1906 his friend Picasso had made some experimental woodcuts of animals. He published eighteen of the eventual thirty poems in 1908 in a review, La phalange, and promised his readers an illustrated edition. Picasso, ever elusive, was otherwise engaged; the poet persuaded Raoul Dufy (whom he had met through Derain, illustrator of Apollinaire’s first work) to provide the artwork, the first of that artist’s many illustrations. Apollinaire casts himself as Orpheus in this work in poems 1, 13, 18 and 24 (all of which are ignored by Poulenc). The work was an artistic triumph and commercial disaster for its authors.

As he was leaving for war service in 1918 Adrienne Monnier handed Poulenc a packet of books which included a later edition of Apollinare’s work. The composer had already heard the poet read his lyrics, and he fell in love with them, selecting twelve to set to music in Pont-sur-Seine where he found himself stationed.

Having set these twelve poems to music, Poulenc reduced the number to six on the advice of Georges Auric. On learning that Louis Durey, fellow-member of Les Six, was working at the same time on setting the entire collection, Poulenc rather gallantly dedicated his own set to Durey.

The poems Poulenc chose for his published Le bestiaire were numbers 10, 4, 17, 19, 22 and 23 of Apollinaire’s collection.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

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