For his cycle Le bestiaire
, composed in 1918/9, two years later than the Rapsodie nègre
, Poulenc used a similar ensemble, omitting the piano and adding a bassoon. In keeping with the laid-back simplicity of Apollinaire’s poems, there are no acrobatics, brutalist or otherwise, for any of the seven instruments. Since this instrumental setting was the original version, we can appreciate how the bassoon sound might have suggested the falling chromatic line of the lurching dromedaries, while the clarinet takes on an almost ‘heroic’ role, as prescribed by Berlioz in his Instrumentation Treatise
. In the final cadence of the second song the flute’s three notes give a warm colouring to the poet’s love, and in the fifth song the rising clarinet scales are fittingly echoed by the bassoon’s falling ones, mirroring the backward movement of the crabs. Finally, there is just a wisp of Impressionist fog in the portrait of the melancholy carps in their ponds, delineated by a high violin E flat harmonic.
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2011