Francis Poulenc

Chansons gaillardes, song cycle for voice & piano, FP 42

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    By 1926, when Heugel published the Chansons gaillardes, Poulenc was already the popular composer of the Trois Mouvements perpétuels, for piano and the hit ballet Les Biches and was in constant touch with everyone who was anyone in Paris -- Stravinsky (whose influence he gratefully acknowledged) and Falla, Stokowski, and Koussevitzky, Diaghilev and Landowska, Cocteau and Max Jacob, to take names at random. But if his great lyrical gifts and smartalecky chic brought him eager acclaim, he was both avid and insecure regarding technique, his private studies with Koechlin having finished but two years previously. And if the Chansons gaillardes -- ribald songs -- do not yet share the exquisite balance and appositeness of his mature mélodies, especially those set to poems by Apollinaire and Eluard, they nevertheless partake imperishably of the insouciance and brilliant whirl of the pampered playboy-composer. In The Diary of My Songs, Poulenc remarked of the Chansons gaillardes, "I am fond of this collection where I tried to show that outright obscenity can adapt itself to music...The texts were found in an anthology of songs of the seventeenth century (an old edition)." Wry comment on the fidelity of his mistress and frenzied panegyrics to wine and the pleasures of the bed -- "'Couplets bachiques' and 'La belle jeunesse' must be performed very fast," Poulenc noted -- alternate with an eerily serene prayer to the Fates and the elegant conceit of Sérénade. The airy madrigal tells little Jeanneton that, while she's lovely as an angel and sweet as a lamb, a girl without breasts is like partridge served without orange. By postmodern standards, "L'Offrande" is the only truly obscene item in the collection -- a virgin offers the god of love a candle to obtain a lover and he replies that, while she waits, she could always make use of her offering ("Servez-vous toujours de l'offrande"). The first performance of the Chansons gaillardes was given by baritone Pierre Bernac with Poulenc accompanying on May 2, 1926, in company with the premiere of the latter's Trio for oboe, bassoon, and piano (dedicated to Falla), and works by Auric at a concert so well attended that over 200 people had to be turned away. From 1934 until his retirement in 1960, Bernac was Poulenc's preferred interpreter, giving premieres and recording many of his songs with the composer, including two numbers from Chansons gaillardes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. La Maîtresse volage
    2. Chanson à boire
    3. Madrigal
    4. Invocation aux Parques
    5. Couplets bachiques
    6. L'Offrande
    7. La Belle Jeunesse
    8. Sérénade

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2013 ATMA Classique ACD 22688
    2013 Anima / Anima Records ANM 120400001
    2013 MDG MDG 60318222
    2013 Hyperion CDA 680214
    2013 Thomas Meglioranza 003
    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD247
    2010 Denon Records
    2009 Timpani / Zebralution
    2007 Decca 000971802
    2005 Cypres 9618
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 86329
    2002 Arion 68258
    2001 Melodiste Francais 523742
    2000 Naxos 553642
    1997 Point Classics 265042
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64087
    King 210
    Pavane 7335
    Ades 20293