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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Calligrammes, FP140

May to August 1948; Sept mélodies sur des poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire
author of text
Calligrammes, 1913-1916; subtitled Poèmes de la Paix et de la Guerre; published April 1918

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: March 2011
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 10 minutes 50 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Thomas Oliemans (baritone), 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)
Calligrammes is work inspired by war. This was Poulenc’s last Apollinaire cycle, written in 1948, although the composer had known these poems since they had first appeared in 1918—he bought his copy of the sumptuous large-format first edition (published by Mercure de France, with a drawing by Picasso of the poet, a war-hero with a bandaged head) in Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop. How extraordinary and exciting these ‘calligrammes’ (drawn poems, poems-in-pictures, bold experiments in typography) must have seemed in 1918! The poet had written (and designed) this collection between 1913 and 1916; they recount one man’s reactions, a poet in his mid-thirties and in love (when was Apollinaire not in love?) as he survived from day to day through emotional vicissitudes and a cruel and senseless war. The collection’s subtitle (‘Poèmes de la Paix et de la Guerre’) emphasizes that before, and even during, Apollinaire’s time at the front he experienced—and remembered—times of repose and delight. These poems germinated in Poulenc’s brain for thirty years during which time he burnished his skills with regard to composing Apollinairian music, eventually ready to tackle, as he put it, ‘the culmination of a whole range of experiments in setting Apollinaire’. The composition of Calligrammes was also a massive exercise in nostalgia for the composer as he returned to a time in his youth, the spring of 1918, when he bought a copy of these poems in Paris as he himself prepared to leave for the front. Nineteen years younger than Apollinaire, Poulenc could at least claim to have participated, even if only at the margins, in the same war as his beloved poet.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 3
Studio Master: SIGCD272Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
L'heure exquise
Studio Master: CDA67962Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Poulenc: Voyage à Paris
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