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The Complete Songs of Francis Poulenc
Volume 1

Chansons gaillardes
A sa guitare
Épitaphe sur un texte de Malherbe
Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin
Dernier poeme
Fiançailles pour rire
La courte paille

Malcolm Martineau (piano) with Lorna Anderson (soprano), Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone),
Felicity Lott (soprano), Lisa Milne (soprano), Christopher Maltman (baritone) & Robert Murray (tenor)

Signum Classics SIGCD247

An auspicious beginning to a series which bodes well to join on collectors' shelves the wonderful Hyperion intégrales of German lieder completed by Graham Johnson.

No longer is it appropriate to put the accompanist's name at the bottom of the listing; Martineau is one of our finest "song pianists", as regular visitors to Wigmore Hall know well. He supports each singer and was doubtless closely involved in developing their interpretations of this oeuvre.

Our guide is the doyen of French music specialists Roger Nichols, whose essay is as illuminating as are Johnson's for the Germans, and I thought to put his name alongside Martineau's at the top...

Perhaps they collaborated in an ongoing way on the project? Whatever, the disc assembles a fine team of specialist singers for this repertoire. There are marvellous moments to be savoured from each of them and no significant weak links.

As with Britten, Poulenc's composer colleague and friend, we have here another connoisseur of his native literature. Poulenc revels in setting to music his choice of fine poets, mostly those of his own time.

No one can be wittier in irony at breakneck speed, or able to surpass Poulenc's knack to convey true emotion with economical simplicity; he never forgot Cocteau's adage that "a composer always has too many notes on his keyboard".

Recorded balance is exemplary. Excellent presentation with clear texts & parallel English translations, of course.

Recommended without reservation and, as they say, the further volumes are eagerly awaited.

Peter Grahame Woolf