Soprano Barbara Hendricks, who was born in Arkansas and lives in Stockholm, has in many of her recordings a hint of the power of the gospel music in which she was trained. This disc of songs by Francis Poulenc is for the most part a different story. Most of the songs are of chamber dimensions and are very short -- minimal glimpses of love, or, in the case of the collection La courte paille (The Short Straw, tracks 16-20), of the lives of children. The musical language is that of Ravel, slightly flavored with popular song and pared down to a set of quiet but significant vocal gestures. With her near-symbiotic relationship with accompanist Love Derwinger especially in evidence, Hendricks turns these songs into precise little jewels, and she's capable of being frivolous when she needs to be. The entire album builds toward the collection Tel jour telle nuit (Such a Day, Such a Night, tracks 23-32), whose songs are mostly as short as the others, but which has a darker tone with a sensuous flavor. The set was, according to Poulenc himself, inspired by Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben and shares some tonalities and structural details with the earlier cycle. Hendricks moves from the lighter perspectives of the earlier songs to the more complex arc of the poems by Paul Eluard with perfect confidence, and the entire disc can serve as a model for the interpretation of art song in general. Texts are in French and English. This is the first disc of French music to appear on Hendricks' own label, Arte Verum.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin, for voice & piano, FP 91|
|Fiançailles pour rire, song cycle for voice & piano, FP 101|
|Airs chantés, song cycle for voice & piano, FP 46|
|La courte paille, song cycle for voice & piano, FP 178|
|Tel jour, telle nuit, song cycle for voice & piano, FP 86|