Having released a recording of all Poulenc’s songs with Hyperion, pianist Graham Johnson follows up his survey with the book Poulenc: The Life in Songs. Graham has a rich history with Poulenc, having worked extensively with baritone Pierre Bernac, one of Poulenc’s frequent colalborators, and studying not only the composer’s music but the life experiences surrounding its creation.
Graham’s new book “is a greatly expanded version of the already lavish and lively program notes that accompanied [his] recordings” says Alex Ross in a New Yorker feature. Describing his writing, Graham says:
“I have entitled my new book Poulenc: The Life in the Songs because I think how these poems-in-music occur within a biographical context is important. Biographical details and his choice of song texts are very much linked. There is always a reason why the composer has chosen certain texts, and themes, and why he plays with ideas at certain times. Busy writing other music with other criteria in mind, Poulenc was instinctively attracted to the work of his poet contemporaries – and no one could have been more deeply influenced by his Parisian surroundings.
At the age of 21 I fell in love with his music in no small part because of its haunting explorations of Paris and its boulevards, a nostalgic aspect of French life which we non-Parisians so wish we could have experienced for ourselves. I felt as if I had already missed out on so many spring-times of love in that beautiful city that Poulenc’s music seemed something of a time-travelling substitute for that heady atmosphere of romance. It took some time to realise that there was much more to the story than that.”
The book is available today from Rhinegold Publishing.