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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Priez pour paix, FP95

29 September 1938
author of text

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), 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: 2 minutes 42 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Robert Murray (tenor), 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)
Poulenc found this poem reprinted in Le Figaro of 29 September 1938, thus exactly at the time of the Munich crisis when the whole world was on tenterhooks, fearing imminent war with Germany. In fact, the poem as quoted in the newspaper was only the first ten lines of a fifty-line Ballade with a five-line envoi, but it was sufficient for the composer’s purposes. Poulenc wrote a song, fervent and grave, inspired by his own Litanies à la vierge noire. It was a prayer that worked at the time, but sadly only temporarily. In JdmM Poulenc confessed that it was the faith on his father’s side of the family that had inspired him: ‘All my religious music sits back on the style that is inspired in me by Paris and its outskirts. When I pray it is the native of Aveyron who reawakens in me. This is evidence of heredity. Faith is strong in all the Poulencs … it is a prayer to be spoken in a country church.’ The hieratic song in 6/4 has an introduction in stately crotchets, a pulse continued throughout the song which seems much slower than the metronome marking. The music transcends pastiche, although the musical rigours of the poet’s own epoch are not lost on the composer. There was a perfect reason for writing this song, and this was a perfect poem by a medieval prisoner of war that utterly reflected the concerns of the contemporary world in 1938. Perhaps it is no surprise therefore that this is a work that achieves a perfection of its own. Composer and poet make time stand still in every way; one cannot imagine a single note different.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Priez pour paix fut rédigée dans les sombres jours de la crise de Munich, sur un texte du duc Charles d’Orléans (1394–1465). Poulenc écrivit: «Essayé de donner ici une impression de ferveur et surtout d’humilité (pour moi la plus belle qualité de la prière). C’est une prière de sanctuaire de campagne.» Ce n’est pas qu’une musique religieuse: subtilement, elle cherche à atteindre une atmosphère médiévale hiératique, en phase avec le poète.

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
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