WORKS: Le bestiaire; Cocardes; Trois poèmes de Louise Lalanne; Tel jour, telle nuit; Banalités; Métamorphoses
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano)Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: UCD 16730 DDD (distr. Butler)
Poulenc loved the medium of the human voice. He composed for it with intense devotion, writing operatic and choral works and over 150 songs. As a member of Les six, Poulenc became the epitome of the sophisticated Parisian, but he never lost touch with his intrinsic humour and sense of childlike wonder. With acute creative antennae he chose the finest writers and poets – Apollinaire, Eluard and Cocteau – for his mélodies, and wove round their words atmospheric musical lines evocative of Paris in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties. Wit and irony vie with nostalgia and sensuality.
This recording is a chronological programme of songs from 1918 to 1961. Some were originally for voice and orchestra, and Poulenc later transcribed them for voice and piano. The French idiom is one in which Lott excels. Added to her linguistic flair is her current vocal form, which is glorious. From the early Le bestiaire and Cocardes, through the beautiful Eluard song cycle Tel jour, telle nuit, to the monologue ‘La dame de Monte Carlo’, Lott and Johnson cascade through melancholy, frivolity, shimmering elegance and biting humour. They revel in Poulenc’s mesmerising sound-world with Lott’s voice often soaring and floating on the cushioning effect of Johnson’s superb piano playing – exquisite writing, described by the composer himself as ‘a halo of pedals’. Elise McDougall