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Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Mélodies sur des poèmes des poètes divers
Chansons gaillardes [11:29]
À sa guitare (Pierre de Ronsard) [2:41]
Poèmes de Ronsard [9:57]
Épitaphe (François de Malherbe) [1:16]
Priez pour paix (Charles d’Orléans) [2:24]
Hymne (Jean Racine) [3:47]
Chansons villageoises (M. Fombeure) [11:21]
Pierrot (Théodore de Banville) [9:47]
Cocardes (Jean Cocteau) [6:39]
Toréador (Jean Cocteau) [6:13]
Deux Poèmes de Louis Aragon [4:00]
Le Disparu (Robert Desnos) [1:34]
Dernier poème (att.Robert Desnos) [1:58]
Parisiana (Max Jacob) [2:28]
Trois Chansons de F. Garcia-Lorca [4:31]
Le Portrait (Colette) [2:04]
Paul et Virginie (R. Radiguet) [1:00]
Nuage (Laurence de Beylié) [2:08]
Holger Falk (baritone)
Alessandro Zuppardo (piano)
rec. 14 November 2012, 11 March 2013, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster

I was deeply impressed by volume 2 of this series (see review), and this third volume of songs on poems of various poets continues this high quality. There are 40 songs in all which gives an average of 2 minutes per song, and this programme offers plenty of value.
The opening set Chansons gaillardes gives us the full range of Poulenc’s moods, from an unexpectedly grim Chanson à boire, the richly lyrical L’Offrande, and plenty of highly atmospheric and boisterous contrasts. As ever, all of the texts are given in the booklet in their original French and in English translation. Many of the songs here are notable for the ancient nature of their sources, from the 15th century works of Charles d’Orléans, Pierre Ronsard of the 16th and François de Malherbe from the 16th and early 17th centuries. Poulenc makes no compromise in the individuality and character of his harmonies and melodies, occasionally throwing in some open fifths and giving a sense of timeless mystery, but more often dropping these writers straight into the highly distinctive and personal idiom we all know and love. Gorgeous songs such as Le Tombeau are right up with Poulenc’s best work, and you can sense his relish and joy of inspiration in setting these poems.
The second part of the programme brings us more up to date, with poets such as Maurice Fombeure and Louis Aragon. Jean Cocteau occupies a special place here, being one of Poulenc’s friends, a unique creative voice and an influential figure amongst Les Six. Poulenc’s settings in Cocardes remain approachable, but you can sense him raising his game in responding to Cocteau’s sparing use of language - the silences in the vocal part filled with musical imagery, sewing up with significant notes the gaps normally filled by the imagination of the reader. The substantial Toréador mixes a relaxed salon swagger with winks to Bizet’s Carmen, creating a Spanish stereotype who spears his game with a baguette - or at least that’s what the irony in the music seems to suggest.
Full of highlights, there are too many jewels here to pick out all of the favourites. I enjoy the dark to light piano moods which go with Robert Desnos’s Dernier poème, the sheer simplicity of something like L’Enfant muet from García Lorca, the energy of Colette’s Le portrait or the sheer brilliance in surprise which Poulenc infuses Raymond Radiguet’s Paul et Virginie. Laurence de Belié’s Nuage is a perfect conclusion, but beware a mismatch in the track numbers on the rear inlay which leads us to believe there are 41 rather than 40 songs. As ever, Holger Falk’s vocal interpretations are superbly nuanced and avoid histrionic extremes, Alessandro Zuppardo’s accompaniments the summit of refinement and a continuously colourful equal partnership. MDG production and presentation are as good as faultless.
Dominy Clements