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Track(s) taken from A66059

Chansons françaises

author of text
French folk songs

The Light Blues
This recording is not available for download
Recording details: April 1982
St George the Martyr, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: December 1982
Total duration: 17 minutes 58 seconds

Cover artwork: Illustration by Ross Davenport.

Other recordings available for download

New London Chamber Choir, James Wood (conductor)
The Cambridge Singers, John Rutter (conductor)
The King's Singers
A man of sharp contradictions, not least those prompted by the tensions between his homosexuality and Catholic faith, Poulenc developed a lasting reputation as a suave modernist, devoted to the artistic pursuit of stylistic elegance and sophisticated wit. He was born into a wealthy family in Paris, where his father ran a pharmaceutical manufacturing business with his two brothers. The boy’s mother, a keen amateur musician, encouraged Francis to learn piano and explore composition at an early age. In 1923, Poulenc made his breakthrough with the ballet score Les biches, successfully staged in Monte Carlo by Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ in January 1924.

“I am religious by deepest instinct and by heredity,” Poulenc once observed: “I am a Catholic. Nevertheless the gentle indifference of the maternal side of my family had, quite naturally, led to a long fit of forgetfulness of religion”. The death of a friend in a car accident, followed by a visit in the summer of 1936 to the shrine of the Black Virgin at Rocamadour, effectively revived the vigour of Poulenc’s childhood faith. Thereafter, he produced one of the largest and certainly finest outputs of sacred choral music by any French composer since pre-Revolutionary times.

Poulenc also enriched the repertoire of secular vocal compositions, in the form of solo songs and ensemble pieces, touching the sublime with works such as the song-cycle Tel jour, telle nuit and the cantata Figure humaine. His Eight French Songs, written in 1945 and 1946, are formed from more mundane material; however, Poulenc manages to inflect his choice of artless popular tunes with sufficient personal touches to lift them above the mill’s run of folk arrangements. There’s a tremendous swagger about Clic, clac dansez sabots, for instance, that owes as much to the composer’s ostinato patterns and sonorous harmonies as to the unrelenting tread of the song’s original melody. The direct expressions of bucolic pleasures and pains found in these Chansons françaises suited the patriotic spirit of post-war France, however manufactured in the aftermath of the Allied victory or challenged by troubling memories of French public and private affairs under the Nazis.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2008

Other albums featuring this work

Cambridge Singers A Cappella
CSCD509Download only
Poulenc: Secular choral music
CDA66798Archive Service
The King's Singers - Live at the BBC Proms
SIGCD150Download only
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