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Poulenc: Voyage à Paris

Voyage à Paris
Mélodies de Apollinaire
Trois Poèmes de Louise Lalanne
Tel jour telle nuit
Tu vois le feu du soir
Metamorphoses, FP 121
Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon
Priez pour paix
A sa guitare
Toréador - Chanson hispano-italienne
Nous voulons une petite sceur
Les chemins de l'amour

The Songmakers' Almanac: Felicity Lott (soprano) & Graham Johnson (piano)
with Ann Murray, Anthony Rolfe Johnson & Richard Jackson

Hyperion Helios: CDH55366

A bargain reissue of a great oeuvre of song, setting fine French poetry, some of it inscrutable and delivered at high speed.

Felicity Lott was a French graduate before taking to professional singing, and she has continued in this repertoire through a long career.

This disc is also a wonderful reminder of the Songmakers' Almanac series at Wigmore Hall, devised by Graham Johnson, which led to a relaxation of recital manners. The participants stayed on platform throughout and songs were introduced with readings; something quite new a quarter of a century ago...

There is a slight tendency to shrillness in Lott's tone here (partly due to the recording, 1984?) but it is all more than acceptable, and it is good to have items from original Songmakers' stalwarts, Murray, Rolfe Johnson & Jackson.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The Complete Songs of Francis Poulenc Volume 2

Toréador - Chanson hispano-italienne
Trois Poèmes de Louise Lalanne
Mélodies (2) de Guillaume Apollinaire
Trois Chansons de F.Garcia-Lorca
Paul et Virginie; Nuage; Hymne
Ce doux petit visage
Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon
Priez pour paix

Tel jour telle nuit
La Tragique Histoire du petit René & Le Petit Garçon trop bien portent
La Travail du peintre; Les chemins de l'amour

Malcolm Martineau (piano) with

Felicity Lott, Lorna Anderson, Lisa Milne (sopranos),
Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone), Christopher Maltman (baritone)

Signum CD263

Early reviews of this important new series have been somewhat grudging. I find this disc a delight; what better than to settle down with the 46-page booklet and enjoy the variety of this collection of song by Poulenc "whose reputation as a facile composer died hard" [Roger Nichols]? The booklet is a pleasure to browse; parallel French/English texts, of course, printed clearly on faintly brown-tinged paper which give a period feel to the whole thing (designer Darren Rumney).

Nichols & Martineau (who presumably masterminds this series) make for a fine team and they have assembled a group of best mostly British singers, headed (in this volume) by Felicity Lott, a quarter century on from the Poulenc disc reviewed above.

She contributes the "outright masterpiece" Tel jour telle nuit as the heart of this programme, and finishes it with a lighter Anouilh setting Les chemins de l'amour", such as she likes to end her recitals. The last time I heard Felicity Lott live in recital, 2009, she started a little shakily, but soon found herself again in perfect voice, finishing triumphantly with Roses of Picardy (M P review by Tess Ormond).

Martineau's other sopranos and their male companions (or did they all record in quite separate sessions, we'll never know?) supply solid companionship and contrast, all of them in good voice, well recorded and balanced by Andrew Mellor, possibly with an unnamed French language adviser in attendance?

These recordings took place in a leisurely seeming twenty days last year, but a review of Vol 1 suggests that things may have been more complicated, with the implication that these tracks are destined for a five-CD series to be released gradually, one which it has been suggested may not supercede an EMI-Decca boxed set of Poulenc mélodies, with Pascal Rogé and mainly French singers (though also featuring Felicity Lott); Poulenc enthusiasts, who are served well by the recording industry, may have them already in their original releases?

Received as re-issues in an economical box, these really are a mess [Decca 475 9085].

Information is scant, and only on the actual discs themselves can one learn that, for example, Felicity Lott is responsible for the whole of CD 2.

Texts and parallel translations are provided in decent clear print, but there's nothing about the poets. Sound is good (1992-98) and Pascal Rogé is fluent and assured.

I tried listening to some tracks with my original 1977 copy of Pierre Bernac's great book Francis Poulenc: The Man and His Songs (essential reading for the serious devotee of French melodies) open at my side, but that was simply too hard work.

Malcolm Martineau and his singers have nothing to fear.

Peter Grahame Woolf