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Work

Francis Poulenc

Francis Poulenc Composer

5 Poèmes de Paul Eluard, FP77

Performances: 3
Tracks: 11
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Musicology:
  • 5 Poèmes de Paul Eluard, FP77
    Year: 1935
    Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
    Pr. Instrument: Voice
    • 1.Peut-il se reposer?
    • 2.Il la prend dans ses bras
    • 3.Plume d’eau claire
    • 4.Rôdeuse au front de verre
    • 5.Amoureuses

4.Rôdeuse au front de verre

Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1935) preferred to make songs from poems by writers who were his contemporaries, people he had met and, preferably, were his friends. The most important of these in terms of representation in Poulenc's output of songs (one of the major such collections in twentieth century music) was Paul Éluard.

Born Eugenie Emile Paul Grindel (taking for a professional name the more mellifluous original surname of his mother), Éluard (1895 - 1953) was one of the first surrealists and that movement's leading poet. After joining the Communist Party in 1927, he shifted his poetic technique to a more populist approach. But he did retain a taste for strange, allusive juxtaposition of poetic imagery that makes the translation of his poems into other languages quite difficult.

Poulenc said he liked Éluard because the poet was the "only surrealist who loved music." Poulenc had met the poet, but the spark to create music out of his poems came only in 1935, when he received a copy of the volume A toute épreuve, notable among other things for being printed on pink paper. Poulenc said these poems "opened up for me all the poetry of Éluard. At last I had found a lyric poet, a poet of love, be it human love, or love of liberty." He set five of its poems as Cinq poèmes de Paul Éluard. For all his admiration for the quality of love in Éluard's works, and despite the later masterpieces such as the Éluard song cycle Tel Jour, Telle Nuit, all commentators agree that the five songs are uneven. Poulenc's longtime recital partner, Pierre Bernac (who sang the world premiere of the set), agreed in his own volume Francis Poulenc: The Man and His Songs, saying Poulenc had not yet found the key to Éluard's lyrical world.

That said, this one and a half minute song has many excellent qualities. It casts an immediate exotic spell. The title means "Prowler with brow of glass," as Winifred Radford cast it into English in translating Bernac's book. The lines are descriptive of a beautiful woman, a momentary glimpse, perhaps as she moves through a crowd. The poem suggests inner serenity and mystery. About its only weakness is that the music for it is not new: Poulenc adapts some of the shimmering Balinese-style figurations from his recent two-piano concerto for the accompaniment, but this only adds to the mystery and exotic quality of the song.

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