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Chansons françaises

composer
author of text
French folk songs

 
A man of sharp contradictions, not least those prompted by the tensions between his homosexuality and Catholic faith, Poulenc developed a lasting reputation as a suave modernist, devoted to the artistic pursuit of stylistic elegance and sophisticated wit. He was born into a wealthy family in Paris, where his father ran a pharmaceutical manufacturing business with his two brothers. The boy’s mother, a keen amateur musician, encouraged Francis to learn piano and explore composition at an early age. In 1923, Poulenc made his breakthrough with the ballet score Les biches, successfully staged in Monte Carlo by Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ in January 1924.

“I am religious by deepest instinct and by heredity,” Poulenc once observed: “I am a Catholic. Nevertheless the gentle indifference of the maternal side of my family had, quite naturally, led to a long fit of forgetfulness of religion”. The death of a friend in a car accident, followed by a visit in the summer of 1936 to the shrine of the Black Virgin at Rocamadour, effectively revived the vigour of Poulenc’s childhood faith. Thereafter, he produced one of the largest and certainly finest outputs of sacred choral music by any French composer since pre-Revolutionary times.

Poulenc also enriched the repertoire of secular vocal compositions, in the form of solo songs and ensemble pieces, touching the sublime with works such as the song-cycle Tel jour, telle nuit and the cantata Figure humaine. His Eight French Songs, written in 1945 and 1946, are formed from more mundane material; however, Poulenc manages to inflect his choice of artless popular tunes with sufficient personal touches to lift them above the mill’s run of folk arrangements. There’s a tremendous swagger about Clic, clac dansez sabots, for instance, that owes as much to the composer’s ostinato patterns and sonorous harmonies as to the unrelenting tread of the song’s original melody. The direct expressions of bucolic pleasures and pains found in these Chansons françaises suited the patriotic spirit of post-war France, however manufactured in the aftermath of the Allied victory or challenged by troubling memories of French public and private affairs under the Nazis.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2008

Recordings

Poulenc: Secular choral music
CDA66798Archive ServiceDownload currently discounted
The King's Singers Live at the BBC Proms
SIGCD150Download only
The Light Blues' Tour de France
A66059Archive Service (LP transfer)This album is not available for download

Details

No 1: Margoton va t'a l'iau
Track 5 on CDA66798 [2'08] Archive Service
Track 4 on A66059 [2'07] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 2: La belle se sied au pied de la tour
Track 6 on CDA66798 [1'58] Archive Service
Track 2 on SIGCD150 [1'34] Download only
Track 5 on A66059 [1'53] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 3: Pilons l'orge
Track 7 on CDA66798 [0'42] Archive Service
Track 4 on SIGCD150 [0'42] Download only
Track 6 on A66059 [0'37] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 4: Clic, clac, dansez sabots
Track 8 on CDA66798 [1'44] Archive Service
Track 3 on SIGCD150 [1'58] Download only
Track 7 on A66059 [2'01] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 5: C'est la petit' fill' du Prince
Track 9 on CDA66798 [5'50] Archive Service
Track 8 on A66059 [5'05] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 6: La bell' si nous étions
Track 10 on CDA66798 [1'10] Archive Service
Track 1 on SIGCD150 [1'13] Download only
Track 9 on A66059 [1'15] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 7: Ah! mon Beau Laboureur
Track 11 on CDA66798 [3'53] Archive Service
Track 5 on SIGCD150 [3'34] Download only
Track 10 on A66059 [3'14] Archive Service (LP transfer)
No 8: Les tisserands
Track 12 on CDA66798 [1'46] Archive Service
Track 6 on SIGCD150 [1'56] Download only
Track 11 on A66059 [1'46] Archive Service (LP transfer)

Track-specific metadata for CDH55179 track 7

Pilons l'orge
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-95-79807
Duration
0'42
Recording date
12 May 1995
Recording venue
St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Gary Cole
Recording engineer
Gary Cole
Hyperion usage
  1. Poulenc: Secular choral music (CDA66798)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: October 1995
    Deletion date: June 2004
    Archive Service
  2. Poulenc: Secular choral music (CDH55179)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 2004
    Deletion date: August 2012
    Superseded by CDA66798
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