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Le sommeil is an exasperated text (a mother whose child will not go to sleep) set very gently to music. The late Poulenc song style is somewhat thinner than in the glorious ’30s and ’40s, fewer notes on the pages, less effulgent chords, but it is always elegant, and irreproachable in terms of prosody. Quelle aventure! and Ba, be, bi, bo, bu are both madcap, music-hall Poulenc, the reworking of an old, breathless style to charming effect. La reine de cœur is perhaps the jewel of the set, simple and unpretentious, heartfelt and with a pace and depth that only this composer could muster, a shadow of past splendours perhaps, but an authentic one. It is a song that Régine Crespin recorded magically. Les anges musiciens, with its reference to the half-day holiday on Thursdays in French schools, is notable for its mention of Mozart, and the way that Poulenc subtly suggests the melodic contours of the slow movement (Romanze) in B flat major of the D minor Piano Concerto K466. Le carafon is a charming little ballad featuring the magician Merlin, an old phonograph, a baby giraffe and finally a baby carafe. Poulenc handles this whimsy with delicate mastery. The final song in the set, Lune d’avril, is very much a work from 1960 with its mention of nuclear disarmament, a major theme of the time for parents of young children. The composer was father of a fourteen year-old daughter, although very few people knew about her at the time. Poulenc’s farewell to song trails into the distance with one of his longest, yet least eventful, postludes, its C major tonality and hypnotic pace finally melting into a voluptuous dominant seventh. The addition of that crucial and luxuriously decadent B flat in the final chord adds a haunting, questioning resonance. At that very moment Poulenc’s life’s work as a great song composer fades away with the indication pppp. ‘The taste for this musical form is coming to an end, so I am told’, he wrote in JdmM. ‘So much the worse. Long live Schubert, Schumann, Musorgsky, Chabrier, Debussy, etc, … etc …’
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013
|Poulenc: The Complete Songs|
Graham Johnson is simply the greatest living authority on French song; an artist whose innate feeling for the music is combined with prodigious scholarship. Following his many wonderful recordings in Hyperion’s French Song Edition, Johnson turns t ...» More
|Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 1|
This release marks the first in a new series charting the complete songs of Francis Poulenc, performed by some of the greatest singers of the day and accompanied by the exceptional Malcolm Martineau. Later volumes will feature several works that h ...» More