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Track(s) taken from CDA68021/4

Les chemins de l'amour, FP106

First line:
Les chemins qui vont à la mer
October 1940; 'Valse chantée' from the incidental music to Léocadia, now lost; written for Yvonne Printemps
author of text

Sarah Fox (soprano), 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: 3 minutes 28 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Dame Felicity Lott (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Dame Felicity Lott (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)
Les chemins de l'amour, perhaps the Poulenc song most often heard in concert halls these days, has a lyric by Jean Anouilh (1910–1987) of a kind that the composer could have set again and again if he had wished—something instantaneously understandable and banal, all-purpose emotion for a soprano singing a song on stage. When writing incidental music for Jean Anouilh’s play Léocadia, he wrote to Nora Auric (1 January 1941) that the composition of this work lifted his spirits from the ‘menace of the occupation which weighs on my house—what a sad epoch is ours, and when and how will it all finish up’. The song thus fits a sub-theme of this disc which is ‘France at war’. There could be no greater contrast than between Éluard and Anouilh, the first an idealist, politicized poet, the other a bourgeois playwright, a superb man of the theatre interested in winning audiences, unpolitical, although his famous Antigone can be read as a criticism of Marshal Pétain and Vichy France. Léocadia (its English title was Time Remembered) was one of Anouilh’s lighter plays written as a vehicle for the divinely talented singing actress Yvonne Printemps and her second husband, the classical actor Pierre Fresnay—this is no doubt what interested Poulenc (star-struck when it came to the likes of Printemps) about contributing to Léocadia. He provided about twenty minutes of music, most of it orchestral overtures to five different ‘tableaux’, but in Les chemins de l’amour he was effortlessly able to write a perfect pastiche of the kind of music, in this case a valse chantée, which had captivated him since his youth in shows and reviews by composers like Messager, Hahn, Christiné, Yvain. It is a genre piece with a memorable tune composed affectionately and with taste, but it is a pity that it is chosen by many young singers as an easy option—Poulenc-lite, in lieu of their taking the trouble to learn some of the genuine mélodies. Those sopranos who have not been schooled in mainstream Poulenc invariably turn a delicious French waltz into a Viennese, with a soggy tempo and style as cloying as whipped-cream. Printemps recorded this song in an orchestration since lost; a delicious feature of that recording was the molto più mosso of the postlude, all in the fashion of the time. Though not written in the piano score, the speed of that evanesecent ending is adopted here.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013

Les chemins de l’amour, également interprétée par Yvonne Printemps, fut écrite pour Léocadia de Jean Anouilh (1910–1987). Elle nous donne à voir combien Poulenc aurait pu écrire des «hits» ou des musiques de film, comme son collègue Georges Auric. Cette valse est toujours fort chantée dans les récitals et on en abuse comme bis, pour gagner des applaudissements. Après tout, España n’est pas le meilleur de Chabrier, ni le Boléro le meilleur de Ravel, même si tous deux sont, à leur manière, des chefs-d’œuvre. Poulenc devait envisager cette charmante bagatelle comme un petit-four, à servir uniquement après un copieux repas de ses grandes mélodies. Mais, tous les gourmets et les passionnés de chansons le savent, quand il vient à point, un excellent petit-four est irrésistible.

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

Other albums featuring this work

L'heure exquise
Studio Master: CDA67962Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2
Studio Master: SIGCD263Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Poulenc: Voyage à Paris
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