Poulenc once declared that ‘the musical transposition of a poem must be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience.’ By the age of four he was already able to recite Mallarmé’s Apparition by heart, and while still very young he made his first efforts at setting verses to music. He loved listening to poets read their own work, and he was a voracious reader, who saw his purpose as a composer to embellish to enrich but never to obscure the words or their meaning.
Poulenc loved singers and good singing as much as poetry. All these cycles were written with particular artists in mind; several of them for his life partner, the baritone Pierre Bernac, but he also worked very closely with Clare Croiza and Denise Duval, among others. Thus his vocal lines reflect their individual personalities while being couched in his own, very singable, jazz-inflected idiom.
Valentina Coladonato has chosen a path less travelled through Poulenc’s song oeuvre, avoiding the Chansons villageoises and Air chantés. Yet in La Fraîcheur et le feu, setting Poulenc’s contemporary Paul Eluard, we find an intensity and urgency of expression to rival his masterpiece, the Dialogues of the Carmelites. Motifs from the opera recur in another Eluard cycle, Le travail du peintre, which addresses seven modern painters in turn from Picasso to Villon.
A bittersweet air lingers over the Dernier poème by Desnos, Aragon’s C and the monologue La dame de Monte Carlo; but his extrovert, amusing music-hall side comes to the fore in Les chemins de l’amour, based on Jean Anouilh’s Léocadia and dedicated to Yvonne Printemps, who was a singer of light music. Even within the same cycle there are contrasting moments that eloquently illustrate Poulenc’s own artistic credo: ‘My music is my portrait’.
A specialist in early and new music, the soprano Valentina Coladonato has worked with conductors including Riccardo Muti and Claudio Abbado. She and Claudio Proietti have also recorded the Shakespeare Sonnets of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco for Brilliant Classics (BC95548).
Francis Poulenc is one of the most remarkable French composers of the 20th century. Inspired by many (Debussy, Satie, and his fellow composers of the “Groupe des Six”) he found his essential own voice, a unique blend of French gaiety and a deep, serious and sometimes melancholic feeling.
This new recording presents Poulenc’s songs, written between 1939 and 1961, on poems by Apollinaire, Aragon, Éluard, Desnos, Garcia Lorca, Carême, De Vilmorain, showing his innate feeling for the language rhythm, the inflections and total identification with the poem’s emotional content. Poulenc himself declared: “The musical transposition of a poem must be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience”.
Soprano Valentina Coladonato is a specialist in Early Music and contemporary music. She sang at Salzburger Festspiele, Milan Scala, Wiener Musikverein, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Opéra Paris under conductors like Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Ottavio Dantone, Peter Eötvös and John Axelroth. Pianist Claudio Proietti, a soloist, chamber music player and vocal accompanist, already recorded for Brilliant Classics vocal works of Castelnuovo-Tedesco.