Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.

Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.

Please use the dropdown buttons to set your preferred options, or use the checkbox to accept the defaults.

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon, FP122

September to October 1943
author of text
Les yeux d'Elsa

Ben Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: May 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 21 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Lorna Anderson (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Dame Felicity Lott (soprano), Graham Johnson (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)
The songs were composed at the end of the summer of 1943. Someone brought the composer the first edition of Les yeux d’Elsa (published wisely in Switzerland) by Louis Aragon (with his wife Elsa cast in a Nusch-like role of inspiratrice). Poulenc would have skipped the pontifications of the thirty-one page preface and noted a sequence of night-poems, including La nuit de Dunkerque where the uncompromising and self-regarding guardian of Communist party purity turns chansonnier in time of war. Fêtes galantes follows on page 49 and C on page 55. The composer had known Aragon (1897–1982), uncomfortable surrealist colleague of Éluard, since his teens, but his poetry is not Poulenc’s normal stamping ground. As in Miroirs brûlants he conceived a twin-set where a deeply serious song is followed by a helter-skelter scherzo.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Les Deux Poèmes de Louis Aragon sont du parfait Poulenc. Dans C, Louis Aragon (1897–1982) voit dans la chute de la France entre les mains allemandes, en 1940, le piteux dénouement de siècles de fausses valeurs et d’un patriotisme fondé sur l’exploitation des classes. Sur le papier, les mots peuvent paraître amers et rageurs, mais Poulenc y décèle le déchirement: le poète marxiste et le compositeur châtelain (il possédait une superbe maison de campagne à Noizay, près de Tours) sont unis dans cette chanson par un même droit d’être français. Fêtes galantes est un antidote à un apitoyement par trop nationaliste. La nation qui produisit les courtisans froidement élégants des «Fêtes galantes» de Watteau, sous le règne de Louis XV, est maintenant en plein désarroi, sous l’assaut des envahisseurs nazis. L’élégance n’est plus guère de mise dans la comédie de mœurs, mais les mœurs ont beau partir en fumée, la comédie reste. La vie sous l’Occupation changea bien des choses, mais l’institution de la chanson de cabaret, chantée à plein gosier, vulgaire et poétique à la fois, ne pouvait être qu’insolemment, irrésistiblement française.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 1985
Français: Hypérion

Other albums featuring this work

Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2
Studio Master: SIGCD263Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Poulenc: Voyage à Paris
Waiting for content to load...
Waiting for content to load...