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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire, FP58

February to March 1931
author of text

Ivan Ludlow (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: September 2011
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 4 minutes 48 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


'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)
In 1931 Poulenc composed no fewer than thirteen songs, among them settings of Apollinaire, the first since 1919. In the Quatre poèmes, one commentator has found ‘the veiled nostalgia, the tongue-in-cheek irony, the semi-popular tone that mark the best of Poulenc’s settings of this poet’. One would agree with the first and last of these attributes, but over irony one has to be cautious, since Poulenc specifically directs that ‘L’anguille’ should be sung without irony, and with ‘belief ’. As so often, he also asks that the words and notes should be allowed to speak for themselves, without nudging emphases. ‘L’anguille’ is a valse-musette, one of Poulenc’s many brushes with vulgarity, redeemed by its elegant harmonic diversions. In composing ‘Carte-postale’, dedicated to Madame Cole Porter, Poulenc had in mind a painting by Bonnard of Misia Sert, the social mover and shaker and friend of Diaghilev. The intimate, self-contained quality of the song stems in part from the economy of its material, the curling lines obliquely echoing each other. In contrast, the last two songs are patter songs—in the case of ‘Avant le cinéma’ up until the last line, when the poet’s faux-pompous pronouncement has to be ‘bien chanté’; and in the case of ‘1904’, up until the line ‘Je soupai d’un peu de foie gras’, where the bizarre modulations are suddenly brought under control, and the singer is adjured to sing ‘simplement’ in preparation for the final line, ‘très lent, amoroso’.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2011

Other albums featuring this work

Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 5
Studio Master: SIGCD333Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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