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Paul et Virginie, FP132

First line:
Ciel! les colonies
August 1946
author of text
1920; from Les joues en feu

The poem is from Radiguet’s only collection of poetry, Les joues en feu (1920), and is his commentary on a famous story, Paul et Virginie, a Rousseau-influenced novel by Bernadin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814). The eponymous boy and girl, both fatherless and in love with each other from an early age, are brought up in Mauritius (thus the poem’s references to ‘des colonies’). The author’s pastorale is a tragic love story as well as a charming evocation of innocence and purity of heart in a tropical environment, far from the corruption of society.

It is clear that Poulenc’s youthful friendship with Radiguet, and the poet’s unexpected and early demise, had left the composer with a sense of responsibility regarding this lyric. His commentary in JdmM—unusually detailed for so slight a song—may be quoted at length: ‘These few lines of Radiguet have always had a magical savour for me. In 1920 I set them to music … at that period, lacking technical control, I ran into difficulties, whereas today I believe I have found the means to progress without any real modulation as far as that sudden pause, that silence which makes the ultimate unprepared modulation into C sharp [in the last four bars] unexpected and as though perched right on the top of a tree … One rainy day a feeling of great melancholy helped me to find the tone that I believed to be right. I think it useful to bear in mind how modern poems are placed on the page. It was this that gave me the idea of respecting the blank space in the printing of the poem before “Elle rajeunit” [bars 11–12] … If the tempo is not maintained strictly throughout, this small song, made of a little music, of much tenderness and of one silence, is ruined.’

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013


Poulenc: The Complete Songs
CDA68021/44CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2
Studio Master: SIGCD263Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 36 on CDA68021/4 CD3 [1'06] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 10 on SIGCD263 [1'09] Download only

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