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Le bestiaire, Op 17a
March to July 1919
author of text

'Durey: Songs' (CDA67257)
Durey: Songs
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'La Procession' (CDA66248)
La Procession
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No 01: La tortue  Du Thrace magique, ô délire!
No 02: Le cheval  Mes durs rêves formels sauront te chevaucher
No 03: Le chèvre du Thibet  Les poils de cette chèvre et même
No 04: Le serpent  Tu t’acharnes sur la beauté
No 05: Le chat  Je souhaite dans ma maison
No 06: Le lion  Ô lion, malheureuse image
No 07: Le lièvre  Ne sois pas lascif et peureux
No 08: Le lapin  Je connais un autre connin
No 09: Le dromadaire  Avec ses quatre dromadaires
No 10: La souris  Belles journées, souris du temps
No 11: L'éléphant  Comme un éléphant son ivoire
No 12: La chenille  Le travail mène à la richesse
No 13: La mouche  Nos mouches savent des chansons
No 14: La puce  Puces, amis, amantes même
No 15: La sauterelle  Voici la fine sauterelle
No 16: Le dauphin  Dauphins, vous jouez dans la mer
No 17: Le poulpe  Jetant son encre vers les cieux
No 18: La méduse  Méduses, malheureuses têtes
No 19: L'écrevisse  Incertitude, ô mes délices
No 20: La carpe  Dans vos viviers, dans vos étangs
No 21: Les sirènes  Saché-je d’où provient, sirènes, votre ennui
No 22: La colombe  Colombe, l’amour et l’esprit
No 23: Le paon  En faisant la roue, cet oiseau
No 24: Le hibou  Mon pauvre cœur est un hibou
No 25: Ibis  Oui, j’irai dans l’ombre terreuse
No 26: Le bœuf  Ce chérubin dit la louange
Nos 11, 13, 6, 24, 4, 23, 22: L'éléphant – La mouche – Le lion – Le hibou – Le serpent – Le paon – La colombe

Le bestiaire, Op 17a
The collection of quatrains making up Apollinaire's 'Bestiaire', illustrated by Dufy's woodcuts, had scarcely been published. Without consulting each other at all, ignorant of our respective projects, Francis Poulenc and I took hold of these texts and set them to music, mine begun a little bit earlier and finishing later, framing those of my friend. But whereas Francis set only 12 of the pieces (of which he retained only 6), I devoted my energy to the whole of these 26 little poems.
It was not as easy as it looked at first glance, because, though some of them called irresistibly for music, others, on the contrary, proved more daunting for me: I managed to get through these (La Chenille, Le Poulpe, Le Paon, La Colombe) helped by the strictest simplicity.
I think La Chèvre du Thibet and La Carpe can be paralleled with the same settings of Francis. I particularly like Le Chat for its intimate tenderness, Le Lièvre and Le Lapin, La Souris, La Sauterelle. I also believe that, in La Tortue, Le Cheval, Ibis, La Méduse, Les Sirènes, I have enlarged the frontiers of the poems and opened the imagination to more distant and immense horizons.
(Louis Durey, from his Catalogue Commenté, translation by Isabelle Battioni)

This version of Le Bestiaire is full of unusual and ingenious pianistic touches. The composer has a way of capturing the behaviour or movement of an animal with deft conjuring tricks between the accompanist’s hands. One thinks of the strut of Le Cheval, the slither of Le Serpent, the grace of Le Chat and the lolloping gait of Le Lapin where right-hand quavers seem to spring from the spread left-hand chords. There is an immensity about L’Éléphant; one can almost hear the earth thundering under his feet. La Mouche is worthy of Bartók’s Diary of a fly, and La Puce not only jumps, it bites. The friendly grace of the dolphin is perhaps better caught than in Poulenc’s jollier setting of Le Dauphin, and Le Poulpe throws its ink into the water with the simplest of pianistic means. A personal favourite is the way the accompaniment of La Colombe captures the repetitive coo of the dove. There is a similar felicity about the way the mournful call of the owl is evoked in the grave phrasing of the piano writing in Le Hibou.

There is also a version of this work (Op 17b, as late as 1958) for voice and twelve instruments (two flutes, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, string quintet and piano or celesta).

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002

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Details for CDA67257 track 14
Le dromadaire
Recording date
13 November 2000
Recording venue
Champs Hill, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Durey: Songs (CDA67257)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: May 2002
    Deletion date: October 2010
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