Francis Poulenc

Hyde Park ("Les faiseurs de religion"), song for voice & piano, FP 127/2

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    The charming, brief song Hyde Park was one of two songs published under the title Deux poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire. Poulenc was dismissive of it in his valuable Journal de mes melodies, but it is better than he suggests. Poulenc preferred to write songs to poems of contemporaries of his, persons he had met. This description technically includes Guillaume Apollinaire (born Wilhelm Apollinairis de Kostrowitzky, 1880 - 1918), for Poulenc (1899 - 1963) did meet Apollinaire shortly before the wounded soldier/poet's death of Spanish influenza. Apollinaire wrote the two poems Montparnasse and Hyde Park in 1912. The first song deals with the feelings felt by a poet just arrived from Germany and is deeply felt. (Apollinaire was an Alsatian who had just spent some time in Germany.) The second is rather more a tourist's description of one of the sights of London: Hyde Park in the fog, inhabited by its soapbox orators, children at play, and lovers. Once Poulenc had chosen a poem for a song, he habitually studied it deeply, then let the words wait until music for particular lines appeared in his head. Only when he had enough music assembled to link them all and smooth them into a song would he complete it. Montparnasse took four years of this process. Very soon after he completed it, Poulenc went to London to appear in a joint recital with his partner Pierre Bernac and with British composer/pianist Benjamin Britten. Poulenc saw Hyde Park himself and this song took shape very quickly. It is in a fast, amused tempo and it maintains the descriptive, rather than emotional, quality of the poetry. The song is metronomic in its quick, clipped beat, and its vocal writing is virtuosic and colorful. Poulenc wrote that Hyde Park is what he called a "bridging song, nothing more." By this he meant, correctly, that its brevity (it is less than a minute) and emotional neutrality make it a candidate to insert in a sequence of songs to provide a momentary breather between two richer and more emotionally intense songs. Nevertheless, it is a very good "bridging song," with faultless word setting and a delightful, bemused quality.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Naïve V 5454
    2017 Sony Classical 88985393032
    2013 ATMA Classique ACD 22688
    2013 Hyperion CDA 680214
    2013 Steinway & Sons STNS 30015
    2012 Naïve V 5311
    2011 Naïve V 5250
    2011 MDG 6031568
    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD 272
    2011 Hyperion 55366
    2008 Blue Saphir 001043
    2007 Decca 000971802
    2007 Decca
    2000 EMI Music Distribution / Erato 7243545360
    1998 Arabesque 6713
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64087
    1989 Hyperion CDA66147
    Adda 581210