The Deux Poèmes de Louis Aragon
are perfect Poulenc. In C
, Louis Aragon (1897–1982) sees the fall of France into German hands in 1940 as the sorry outcome of centuries of false values and a patriotism that had been based on class exploitation. On paper the words can seem bitter and angry, but Poulenc finds the heartbreak in them: Marxist poet and château-dwelling composer (Poulenc owned a beautiful country house at Noizay near Tours) are united in song by a common French birthright. Fêtes galantes
is an antidote to too much nationalistic self-pity. The nation that produced the coolly elegant courtiers of Watteau’s ‘Fêtes galantes’ in the reign of Louis XV, now finds itself in complete disarray with the onslaught of the Nazi invaders. There is not much elegance left in the French comedy of manners, but even if manners are thrown out of the window, comedy remains. Life under the occupation changed many things, but the institution of the cabaret song, sung at full tilt, vulgar and poetic at the same time, could never be anything but defiantly, irrepressibly French.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1985