The preface of Les plus jolies chansons acknowledges several learned works on the subject (at this stage the study of the poetry still took preference over the musical), and it also pays generous tribute to the arrangements of Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin (1821-1910) whose Echos du temps passé and Chansons populaires des provinces de France were obviously source works for this collection. There are thirty-six arrangements altogether, of which twenty are by the composer’s friend Armand Gouzien (1839-1892) and sixteen by Chabrier. (His correspondence with Mendès talks of eighteen arrangements being ready, but they were obviously not all published). On this disc we hear seven of Chabrier’s arrangements in their entirety – which is to say with every strophic repetition. The unfolding of these folksongs is such that it is almost always necessary to hear strophe after strophe of the same music to make sense of the complete story. On this very full pair of discs it has been necessary to cut some strophes of the remaining nine settings. The result is that some of the stories might seem incomplete, but the listener will at least have heard all Chabrier’s folksongs from the point of view of his musical contribution. His touch in these pieces is deceptively light and restrained; but time after time his piano writing adds enormously to the music’s charm.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002
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