Desnos’s title is Couplets de la rue Saint-Martin
, a poem from 1942 which anticipates, in eerie prophecy, his own arrest (a fact not lost on the composer of course) and which bemoans the disappearance of the fictional ‘André Platard’, as the Gestapo close in on a cell of the resistance. Poulenc casts the whole song as a valse-musette (the marking is Tempo de Valse à 1 temps, très allant), and calls it ‘a Lied-chanson in the style of Môme Piaf’. He uses changes of key in a progression of thirds (A major—D flat major—F major, and so on) to ratchet up the tension while the texture changes from effulgent to bare-as-bones over the song’s four pages. In JdmM the composer notes three moods: ‘the dance with accordion band, the peal of bells, the funeral march’. The music for the poem’s third verse gets faster as if in panic, the final page seems lost and hopeless while never really relaxing the pulse. This is a tense yet poetic song in memory of a harrowing epoch.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013