Veterans and newbies for Poulenc songs. Vol 3
This is the third volume in the impressive coverage of all Poulenc’s songs masterminded by the superb pianist Malcolm Martineau. In reviewing Vol 1 (8/11 ), Edward Greenfield commented that the recording balance tends to favour the piano. But in the present set any slight piano dominance comes from the sheer character of Martineau’s playing. This is immediately effective in the opening group of four Airs chantes, sung with engaging character and immediacy by Sarah Fox. In ‘Colloque’, which follows, Loma Anderson is joined by Thomas Oliemans, which brings most beautiful singing in a nostalgic love duet.
Indeed, all the love songs here are memorable in that delicate way the French make their own. In the new French school, Cocteau had called for ‘an end to clouds, waves, aquariums, water nymphs and fogs’ while, with Wagner and Schumann in mind, another target 1r was ‘music one listens to head-in-hands’. Yet the down-to-earth evocations are equally memorable. Apollinaire’s ‘La grenouillere’, ravishingly sung by Ann Murray, contrasts with the passionate ‘Montparnasse’ (the ardent Thomas Oliemans again), followed by Apollinaire’s brief but vivid picture of ‘Hyde Park’. ‘Un poeme’ shows Martineau’s delicious pianism at its most delicate and Sarah Fox returns to sing the Miroirs brulants with characteristic beauty and flair.
The six items which make up the pictorial but unified La fraicheur et le feu show the versatility and lyric intensity of John Mark Ainsley and again Martineau’s responsive virtuosity. The seven Calligrammes are more romantic but the pictures of rain and cicadas bring plenty of vivid colour, and the closing ‘Voyage’ is quite haunting. ‘Le souris’ makes a touching postlude before the pair of humorous portraits, ‘Monsieur Sans Souci’ and the tale of Madame Eustache, who has 17 daughers (‘not one too many’), ends this splendid recital in mock-humorous vein. With eight outstanding singers and the pianist all on top form, this is the most attractively inviting of these Poulenc anthologies so far issued.
Excellent documentation too.
Gramophone, September 2011
This is very much the mixture as before in the first of Signum’s projected cycle of the complete Poulenc songs. The team of British singers accompanied by Malcolm Martineau is the same as before, the sopranos tending to outshine the male singers, though Felicity Lott in one or two of her contributions ? as for example the Lafanne poems ? is not in quite such fresh voice as before, even if the difference is marginal and her artistry and feeling for the French language remain as impressive as ever.
The selection starts robustly with Christopher Maltman singing the characterful “Toreador”, described as hispano-italienne, though it is hard to fathom where the Italian element comes in this song about the bullfight. Lorna Anderson sings delightfully the three Lorca songs, very simple in their lyricism, and she it is who also sings “C”, one of Poulenc’s most popular songs, with its haunting arching phrases. Normally one expects this to be sung by a man but Anderson is at least as affecting. She is also characterful in the other Aragon song, “Fetes galantes”, with its chattering rhythms and witty pay-off.
“Hymne”, sung by Jonathan Lemalu, is a simple setting of the Roman breviary as translated by Racine, and “Priez pour paix” reminds us that the composer remained in France during the Nazi occupation. Best of all perhaps are the two miniature cycles: first Tel jour, telle nuit, nine songs to words by Paul Eluard, beautifully sung by Felicity Lott. The other cycle, Le travail du peintre, fascinatingly gives us Poulenc’s reaction to seven painters including Picasso, Braque, MirÃ³, Chagall and Klee. Then, rounding the disc off, comes a light-hearted waltz song, “Les chemins de !’amour”, with Felicity Lott demonstrating her mastery of French operetta style. Signum again provides excellent notes by Roger Nichols and full texts and translations.