The songs were composed at the end of the summer of 1943. Someone brought the composer the first edition of Les yeux d’Elsa
(published wisely in Switzerland) by Louis Aragon (with his wife Elsa cast in a Nusch-like role of inspiratrice). Poulenc would have skipped the pontifications of the thirty-one page preface and noted a sequence of night-poems, including La nuit de Dunkerque
where the uncompromising and self-regarding guardian of Communist party purity turns chansonnier in time of war. Fêtes galantes
follows on page 49 and C
on page 55. The composer had known Aragon (1897–1982), uncomfortable surrealist colleague of Éluard, since his teens, but his poetry is not Poulenc’s normal stamping ground. As in Miroirs brûlants
he conceived a twin-set where a deeply serious song is followed by a helter-skelter scherzo.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013