Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Banalités (Apollinaire), Montparnasse (Apollinaire), Rosemunde
(Apollinaire), Bleuet (Apollinaire), Quatre poèmes de Guillaume
Apollinaire, Tel jour telle nuit (Paul Eluard), Chansons Gaillardes (anon),
C'est ainsi que tu es (Louise de Vilmorin), C (Louis Aragon), Dernier poème
(Robert Desnos), Priez pour pais (Charles d'Orléans), Chansons
Villageoises (Maurice Fombeure).
Christine Lajarrige, piano
The performers on this disc are new to me and given that the programme notes
provided with my copy are completely in French I am none the wiser as to
their credentials (it is at times like this that you regret not taking languages
more seriously at school!!!!**). However one is immediately struck by the
fact that Piquemal has a strong voice, demonstrating excellent contrast with
clear diction, even in the more fleeting songs some of which demand considerable
vocal dexterity! He is ably accompanied by Christine Lajarrige who again
plays with a firm tone but demonstrates considerable sensitivity when required.
The songs set poems by several poets who were particularly important to the
composer notably Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Eluard and are logically
(though not chronologically) arranged on the disc with the Apollinaire settings
grouped together at the beginning. Of these the two cycles Banalités
and Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire are separated
by three individual settings, Montparnasse, Rosemonde and
Bleuet. If any evidence is needed of the sheer variety of expression
which Poulenc poured into these delightful songs compare the languid sensuality
of Rosemonde (track 7) with the fleeting quirkiness of Avant le
Cinema or 1904 ( tracks 11 and 12) from the Quatre poèmes
de Guillaume Apollinaire. By his own admission the composer was very
much at home in this repertoire. I found the Apollinaire cycle
Banalités a particular delight ranging from the almost cabaret-like
fun of Voyage à Paris (track 4) to the beautifully wistful
setting of Sanglots (track 5) which whilst being unquestionably Poulenc
bears fleeting Ravellian reminiscences.
The Eluard cycle which follows is a complete contrast, fundamentally more
serious stylistically and demonstrating a different side to the composer's
nature. Once again Piquemal sings with sensitivity and passion, notably in
the third song Une herbe pauvre which is particularly beautiful.
Of the remaining settings the cycle Chansons gaillardes is the odd
one out in that it uses anonymous seventeenth century texts but these little
gems (the longest of the eight comes in at only 2:31, the shortest a mere
0:39) are simply wonderful. From the opening La maitresse volage,
which utilises a lively folk-like melody through the stately Invocation
aux Parques to the rumbustiously cheeky Couplets bachiques Piquemal
sings with impressive contrast and, where required, humour.
This is a disc to which I will return regularly. Poulenc's wide ranging settings
are a delight in themselves but even more so when given the excellent advocacy
they receive here by a singer who clearly relishes every nuance and revels
in the subtleties of his native language. At budget price this disc is a
must for Poulenc devotees but will also give much enjoyment to a wider audience.
** Naxos state that UK copies have English text in the