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CD Review

Francis Poulenc

Songs after Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire

  • Deux poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire, FP 94
  • La grenouillère (Au bord de l'île on voit), FP 96
  • Banalités, FP 107
  • Montparnasse (O porte de l'hôtel avec deux plantes vertes), FP 127/1
  • Hyde Park (Les faiseurs de religion), FP 127/2
  • Le pont (Deux dames le long du fleuve), FP 131/1
  • Un poème (Il est entré Il s'est assis), FP 131/2
  • Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire, FP 58
  • Rosemonde (Longtemps au pied du perron), FP 158
  • Trois poèmes de Louise Lalanne (3), FP 57
  • Bleuet (Jeune homme de vingt ans), FP 102
  • Le bestiaire (Cortège d'Orphée), FP 15a
  • La souris (Belles journées, souris du temps) (Deux mélodies 1956), FP 162/
  • Songs for Le bestiaire (unpublished), FP 15b
  • La puce
  • Calligrammes, FP 140
Holger Falk, baritone
Alessandro Zuppardo, piano
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6031658-2 59min
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Although the Poulenc song output is well represented on CD, this disc carries a particularly historical aura about it. The year was 1917, and the poet had just returned wounded from World War I, when quite accidentally, he and Poulenc crossed paths in a bookshop on the Rue de l'Odeon. Maybe it was the half-ironic, half-melancholy sound of Apollinaire's voice that inspired the composer to write music to his poems, but whatever the reason, this first encounter with the poet cast a spell over Poulenc that was to remain with him practically till the end of his life.

Indeed, the composer set Apollinaire's first poems in 1918, the year of the poet's death and Poulenc's 19th. The next batch appeared in 1931, when each of the 40 compositions first had to pass through the stage of maturity in Poulenc's mind before being committed to paper. And so it went on for four decades, by the end of which the composer had travelled through the whole universe of Apollinaire's poems.

Holger Falk and his Italian pianist Alessandro Zuppardo interpret all of the 38 tracks with passionate commitment, and their highly expressive renditions bring out all the ambivalence of Apollinaire's tormented soul with untainted clarity and realism. A highly interesting issue, in superb sound and presentation that should appeal to all tastes, particularly those who have the French song at heart.

Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech