Poulenc conceived Chansons villageoises as an orchestral cycle with quite a large percussion section, and it was first sung by Roger Bourdin in 1943 rather than by Pierre Bernac. The composer had envisaged a ‘heavy Verdi baritone (Iago)’ but later admitted that this momentary ‘infidelity’ to his favourite singer had been a mistake. Bernac recorded the piano-accompanied version of the cycle with the composer, perhaps because the vocal requirements of the set—subtlety of colour and diction, the ability to negotiate piano singing in the heights of the passaggio—are hardly associated with a heavy operatic voice. These mélodies, clever stylizations of chansons, are among Poulenc’s most diverting pieces of musical conjuring.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013
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