Francis Poulenc met poet Guillaume Apollinaire only once, when he was in his teens, but he returned throughout his career to Apollinaire's poetry, which is sometimes meanderingly discursive and sometimes aphoristic. His was the first poetry Poulenc set to music, and the cycle, La bestiaire, written in 1911 when he was 20, was the composer's breakthrough piece. The Apollinaire songs, many of which last about a minute or less, are little marvels of inspiration and inventiveness, demonstrations of intense depth or wit enlivened by a remarkably generous lyricism. In the notes for this recording of the composer's complete settings of poems by Apollinaire, pianist Dalton Baldwin, one of the 20th century's premier performers of Poulenc, who worked with the composer and was Gérard Souzay's primary accompanist, offers his ringing endorsement of these performances by baritone Holger Falk and pianist Alessandro Zuppardo, and it's easy to hear why. Neither is French, but you'd never know it based on the idiomatic authenticity of their performances. Falk is thoroughly German, but he is able to tap into a Gallic sensibility so persuasively that it's hard to believe he is not a native French speaker. His voice is exceptionally warm and elastic, he has superb technique, and there's a lovely spin to his tone. A natural singing actor, he brings a strong sense of personality to the songs; each one, no matter how brief, tells a distinctive story. Zuppardo beautifully matches Falk stylistically, with a strong sense of line and a fine feeling for the subtle lifts and emphases that highlight the music's character. The quality of the songs and these exceptional performances make this a delightful CD that should be hard to resist for fans of the composer and of vocal recitals. MDG's unprocessed sound is clean, detailed, and miraculously lifelike. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Deux Poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire|
|Quatre Poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire|
|Trois Poèmes de Louise Lalanne (Guillaume Apollinaire)|
|Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d'Orphée|
|Songs for Le bestiaire|