Poulenc: Banalités; Chansons villageoises; Tel jour, telle nuit; Chansons gaillardes; Calligrammes

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Timpani
WORKS: Banalités; Chansons villageoises; Tel jour, telle nuit; Chansons gaillardes; Calligrammes
PERFORMER: Pierre-Yves Pruvot (baritone); Charles Bouisset (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 1C 1061
A tempting recital, this: Poulenc’s settings of his beloved Apollinaire, in the Banalités and Calligrammes, frame three collections of song which express contrasting aspects of his art. What is more, the baritone Pierre-Yves Pruvot has the fluency and idiomatic ease of the native speaker in taking the weight and measure of Poulenc’s word-setting.

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Too often, though, his performances, with the agile though harshly recorded piano-playing of Charles Bouisset, are just too penny-plain. Pruvot needs to sell the songs far more. His performances simply don’t engage the listener in the distinctive yet elusive worlds of each little vignette of the Banalités – nor do they have enough ‘attitude’ to animate songs like ‘Aussi bien que les cigales’.

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The responses of both voice and fingers are sharper in the Chansons villageoises and the brightly coloured, risqué miniatures of the Chansons gaillardes, where the dry, bright piano sound comes into its own. Pruvot’s artistry is most at home in the Paul Éluard settings of Tel jour, telle nuit, with their sober melancholy and strong, dense language. But with Bernac, van Dam and Lott still readily available in the catalogue, there seems to be no really compelling reason to choose this. Hilary Finch