Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Miroirs brûlants [5:50]
Tel jour telle nuit (1936-37) [16:53]
La Fraîcheur et le feu (1950) [8:15]
Le Travail du peintre (1956) [11:37]
Cinq Poèmes de Paul Éluard (1935) [11:37]
Ce doux petit visage [1:49]
Main dominée par le coeur [1:11]
Une chanson de porcelain [1:31]
Métamorphoses [4:28]
Mazurka [3:25]
Holger Falk (baritone)
Alessandro Zuppardo (piano)
rec. 15-17 April and 2-3 September 2012, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marien-münster
This release is the second volume in a series which will cover all of Francis Poulenc’s Mélodies. It was preceded by a disc of Mélodies Sur Des Poemes De Guillaume Apollinaire which was so warmly received I felt I had to give Holger Falk and Alessandro Zuppardo a try.
MDG have found a real vein of gold with Holger Falk. His vocal tone is gorgeously modulated and very easy on the ear, projecting the texts entirely comprehensibly, rhythmically on the spot, nailing every interval and intonation and taking Poulenc’s varied moods without a trace of strain. You can take any song at random and pick out his abilities in expressing the texts, but something like the miniature Un roulette couverte en tuiles from the cycle Tel jour telle nuit covers numerous bases. The darkness, scary accents and dolorous descending lines are done with a great deal of character, the drama of the conclusion a genuine shocker. Zuppardo’s accompaniment is here as always superbly sensitive, every bit as musically informative as the vocal line and technically faultless.
If you want hear a superb high register, have a listen to Une herbe pauvre from the same cycle – it’s literally breathtaking. Falk’s light tone is a shaft of light here, but he can be as hard as nails where Poulenc demands emotional extremes. The intensity can at times be fearsome, but these two musicians are always within Poulenc’s idiom, delivering tasteful restraint and absolute control and reserving their dynamic and dramatic extremes for those rare moments of abandon and crisis.
Of the more recent collections of Poulenc’s Mélodies the set with Pascal Rogé et al on Decca 475 9085 is one which is likely to be high on anyone’s list of options. This is indeed very good, but of the singers in this case I don’t prefer Francois le Roux to Holger Falk. Le Roux has great dramatic presence and plenty of colourful variety, but his vibrato does tend to go into overdrive whenever the dynamic is raised above f, and he can be a bit shouty. I feel Falk’s consistency and restraint to be even more effective in communicating some of those chills, as well as having superb lyrical expression.
I’ve never been a great collector of this kind of vocal music but I do love Poulenc. Holger Falk and Alessandro Zuppardo, wittily posing like a pair of louche flâneurs on the back of the CD booklet as Poulenc et son protégé, have convinced me I need to own their complete set if no other.
Dominy Clements
A vocal goldmine.

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