Britten/Poulenc

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten/Poulenc
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Le bestiaire; Tel jour, telle nuit; 9 Mélodies; Michelangelo Sonnets; John Donne Sonnets
PERFORMER: Pierre Bernac (baritone), Francis Poulenc (piano); Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54605 2 ADD mono
This is a disc that recalls friendships: Poulenc for Bernac, Britten for Pears, and Poulenc for Britten. It was an inspired idea to group these archive performances together, so demonstrating the facility of both singers and both composers. Neither Poulenc nor Britten considered himself a concert pianist and both could alarm their singers by a measure of ‘re-composition’ on the concert platform.

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The grouping of these songs by Poulenc and Britten (part of EMI’s Composers in Person series) surprisingly emphasises the breadth and vision of Poulenc’s writing. Bernac’s masterfully light delivery and purity of tone show how closely, in a song like ‘Fêtes galantes’ from the Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon, Poulenc approached the popular song as performed by Charles Trenet. ‘Tel jour, telle nuit’ demonstrates the Poulenc of deeply felt emotion, while his debt to Erik Satie is evident in the completely charming miniatures of Le bestiaire, a setting of Apollinaire’s nonsense texts. By contrast, Pears in Britten’s Michelangelo and John Donne Sonnets comes over as a burdened artist, in music that is, admittedly, considerably more austere. The Michelangelo Sonnets were a ‘love gift’ from Britten to Pears and there is no mistaking the intensity in this performance. A certain amount of surface noise intrudes, but not enough to mar any pleasure. Annette Morreau