Poulenc: Complete Guillaume Apollinaire songs

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Complete Guillaume Apollinaire songs: Calligrammes; Banalités; Le bestiaire ou cortège d’Orphée etc
PERFORMER: Holger Falk (baritone), Alessandro Zuppardo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 603 1658-2

The astoundingly beautiful baritone voice and intimate manner revealed in Holger Falk’s Poulenc recording belong to a singer who, from his online calendar, looks like a near-exclusive specialist at the abstruse end of contemporary music. It would be the world’s gain if he developed a parallel recital career. Right from the aplomb with which he negotiates an unintentionally ironic phrase seconds after the start – it translates as ‘If by misfortune I had been German’ – he has the agile lightness of touch and the breadth of phrasing that this repertoire insists on.
Apollinaire’s poetry fired the composer to two of his greatest song cycles, Calligrammes and Banalités, and to a range of expression from the brooding melancholy of ‘Hôtel’ to the anticipatory joy and impatient ennui of ‘Voyage à Paris’ and the wit of ‘Hyde Park’. Falk’s singing is unfailingly persuasive and full of interior feeling. There is a lack of overt drama, however, which slightly narrows the experience.
Falk’s most powerful moment is the unexpected climax to ‘Aussi bien que les cigales’, an implicit reproach to unthinking Midi-dwellers. Hearing him rise to the central phrases of Bleuet, you will be moved, but should you then hear their devastating treatment by Robert Murray (reviewed June 2011) you will enter another dimension of heartbreak. The recorded sound is notably lifelike, making Zuppardo’s responsive piano very ‘present’. Robert Maycock