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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d'Orphée, FP15a

1918/9; dedicated to Louis Durey
author of text
Nos 10, 4, 17, 19, 22 and 23 of Le bestiaire

Brandon Velarde (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: January 2012
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 5 minutes 3 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Thomas Oliemans (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
The Songmakers' Almanac, Richard Jackson (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano) This recording is not available for download


'Johnson's playing is marvellous, virtuosic where needed, but above all attuned to every nuance of his singers. This really is a multifaceted release: the blending of the art forms that was characteristic of Poulenc's time, where poets were absorbed by painters, and composers by poets, alongside the 15 singers gathered on these discs, together with the chameleon-like nature of Poulenc's own genius, all make for an enterprise of dazzling complexity. The recording quality is exemplary, combining clarity with a perfect bloom on the piano sound' (International Record Review)

'There are some outstanding performances: Christopher Maltman's account of Miroirs brûlants and La fraîcheur et le feu (both based on Eluard), and the Calligrammes (on Apollinaire's texts) are worth the price on their own, while Sarah Fox is just as persuasive in Les chemins de l'amour as she is in Tel jour telle nuit. There are telling contributions, too, from Ailish Tynan, Susan Bickley and Ben Johnson, and a brief appearance in the Quatre chansons pour enfants by the English grande dame of French song Felicity Lott. Touchingly, one work also features the voice of baritone Pierre Bernac, Poulenc's recital partner, for whom many of the songs were composed; he's the narrator in a 1977 recording of L'histoire de Babar and the whole set is dedicated to his memory. It's a gorgeous collection, and for sometime Poulenc sceptics like me, a real revelation' (The Guardian)» More

'Especially enjoyable is the final disc, subtitled Fancy. Soprano Susan Bickley is superb in Poulenc’s early Poèmes de Ronsard—sparky settings of Renaissance poetry, and Ashley Riches has fun with the better-known Chansons gaillardes. The Huit chansons polonaises, sung by Agnieszka Adamczak, pay oblique homage to Poulenc’s beloved Chopin. There’s not a weak link among the vocal cast, and there’s even a cameo from the great Felicity Lott. A wonderful bonus is the inclusion of a 1970s BBC taping of Babar, narrated with impeccable grace and wit by Poulenc’s long-time recital partner Pierre Bernac. Johnson’s accessible, comprehensive notes deserve to be published in book form, and Hyperion generously provide full texts and translations. These songs will comfort the most jaded of palates, and this box set contains enough riches to sustain a lifetime’s listening. In Johnson’s words, Poulenc’s music 'has seemed dark and joyous, accessible and remote, imperishable yet infinitely fragile, and now it is in the hands of a younger generation'.' (TheArtsDesk.com)
Apollinaire, a great bibliophile, knew all about the exquisitely illustrated medieval bestiaries; in 1906 his friend Picasso had made some experimental woodcuts of animals. He published eighteen of the eventual thirty poems in 1908 in a review, La phalange, and promised his readers an illustrated edition. Picasso, ever elusive, was otherwise engaged; the poet persuaded Raoul Dufy (whom he had met through Derain, illustrator of Apollinaire’s first work) to provide the artwork, the first of that artist’s many illustrations. Apollinaire casts himself as Orpheus in this work in poems 1, 13, 18 and 24 (all of which are ignored by Poulenc). The work was an artistic triumph and commercial disaster for its authors.

As he was leaving for war service in 1918 Adrienne Monnier handed Poulenc a packet of books which included a later edition of Apollinare’s work. The composer had already heard the poet read his lyrics, and he fell in love with them, selecting twelve to set to music in Pont-sur-Seine where he found himself stationed.

Having set these twelve poems to music, Poulenc reduced the number to six on the advice of Georges Auric. On learning that Louis Durey, fellow-member of Les Six, was working at the same time on setting the entire collection, Poulenc rather gallantly dedicated his own set to Durey.

The poems Poulenc chose for his published Le bestiaire were numbers 10, 4, 17, 19, 22 and 23 of Apollinaire’s collection.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4
Studio Master: SIGCD323Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Le Bestiaire
A66149Archive Service (LP transfer)This album is not available for download
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