1) Je chante
2) En quittant une ville
3) Y a díla joie
4) Fleur bleue
5) Le grand café
6) La polka du roi
7) Biguine à bango
8) Ah dis, ah dis, ah bonjour
9) La vie qui va
11) Quand jíétais petit
12) Jardins du mois de mai
13) Le soleil et la lune
14) Mamízelle Clio
17) Tombé du ciel
18) Le retour des saisons
19) Marie, Marie
pleasant rather than handsome young man, Charles
Trenet was born in Narbonne in South Western
France in May 1913. From an early age he had
a talent for words and music and from a very
young child was in the habit of improvisation.
When asked what he was singing he would say
he didnít know. The divorce of his parents
in 1922 saw Charles in Perpignan with his
brother where his father was a lawyer. At
fifteen, spurred on by the Catalan Poet Bausil,
he published his first verses and edited and
published the Sporting Chronicle "Le
Coq Catalan", at the same time rubbing
shoulders with many well known avant-garde
figures. One of these was Fons Godail a painter
and Cabaret designer. It was under his influence
that Trenet exhibited in 1927 examples of
his own work.
1928 he joined his mother and stepfather in
Berlin and there aspired to become a film
director, having no wish to become the architect
as his father had wanted. In the event he
devoted himself to writing his first novel.
Then in 1930 he moved back to Paris where
he was able to expand his many talents which
included working as a graphic artist and frequenting
the night spots of Montmartre and Montparnass
where he was soon billed as a singing clown.
He quickly rose to cabaret stardom while his
associates in intellectual circles included
many fellow writers of the time. It was during
1933 with his partner Johnny Hess that he
went on to co-write many successes which included
recordings for Pathe at the same time as making
regular cabaret appearances. Then in 1936
they both were drafted into Military Service.
the mid-thirties Trenet was inspired by the
imported transatlantic idioms of Jazz and
Swing. He was also the author of three novels
and many verses, but he still went on writing
songs. In 1937 he made his first solo commercial
recording and success after success followed.
In 1938 he wrote his greatest hit to date
while in Military Service, "Ya díla joie".
Two films followed but in 1943, with more
limited success, he returned to the screen
as co-writer with Jacques Prevert and spent
the rest of WW2 in maintaining French morale
with his songs, most significantly ĎDouce
Franceí. He continued an active performing
schedule in France until he retired in 1975.
However, still wanting to be in the limelight,
he embarked on a series of farewell tours.
He was never wanting in energy and in 1992
and 1995 published a new collection of songs
and during 1999 gave three concerts in Paris.
He died in a hospital near Paris aged eighty-seven.
The following day he was hailed by President
Chirac as Ďa great artist, poet and national
little is known of the personal life of this
talented man topped with an energy that never
left him. He achieved so much in his long
life but are his achievements appreciated
now as they were then? We will see as we listen
to him singing some of the songs he wrote,
and recorded in Paris.
first recording is one of Trenetís signature
songs, "Ja Change". A fluttering
flute-led introduction is the first indication
of a swiftly sung number and this feeling
remains as Charles bursts into song with the
flourish and abandon you expect from a man
able to conjure up words and music out of
nowhere without apparent effort. Itís a captivating
song sung with a Ďdevil-may-careí attitude,
but all the time you are aware of every word
fitting every note in spite of the varying
changes in the song. The need to understand
the words isnít necessary as Trenetís voice
is so adept at keeping with the music. What
better to follow than "En quittant une
ville". This is recorded with Trenetís
own orchestra and is a much quieter song but
like all his recordings his voice never falters
and even non-French speakers can hear how
very clear his diction is. The excellence
of his solo players together with a fine pianist
make this recording well worth listening to
again and again. At the same time he recorded
"Y a díla joie", and although he
sings "out" a little more the Orchestra
make sure they play in complete unison. Notice
too the slight hint of laughter in Trenetís
voice as it becomes more vibrant, but always
his Orchestra follows faithfully his many
changes of pitch when it appears he is running
out of breath, but which is Trenetís way of
expressing his feelings as he sings.
hear Trenet in his next recording with Wal-Bergsís
Orchestra. This is "Fleur bleue"
and Trenet is in a "couldnít care less"
mood. An exhilarating number much to be enjoyed.
I was amused by the start of the next song,
"Le grand café". Accompanied
again by his own Orchestra Trenet starts by
half speaking and half singing while the music
plays softly in the background. Then you hear
Trenet slowly burst into an angry tirade,
his voice so pitched it leaves you in no doubt
of his true feelings. The orchestra religiously
follow until he slowly quietens and begins
speaking again in time with the music showing
that his anger is over. An unusual song. Next
is "Le polka du roi". He is clearly
teaching someone to dance, explaining by singing
the movements. His voice rises and falls beautifully
and sometimes I had the feeling he was dancing
will feel you are in the Caribbean when you
listen next to "Biguine à bango".
With Wal-Bergís Orchestra, Trenet makes the
atmosphere really come to life. His control
over his voice is superb. The orchestra accompany
superbly and join in expertly playing the
complex rhythm. In Trenetís next recording,
"Ah dis, ah dis, ah bonjour" from
the film "Je Chante". Imagine Trenet
tripping gaily down a Paris street, his cane
swinging, his hat at a saucy angle and winking
his eye at every pretty girl he sees. Itís
a pleasant song and one Trenet, with his natural
flair for knowing how any song should be sung,
sings with a lovely lilt. The next song is
also from "Je Chante". Itís "La
vie qui va" which is a straightforward,
unremarkable song notable for how Trenet never
deviates from the melody. I liked the next
number "Annie-Anna" very much. Trenet
sings very swiftly and in his quick-witted
style never trips over any word even managing
a really bouncy, South American rhythm. I
liked the next recording, "Quand jíétais
petit", very much too. The mixture of
Trenetís singing and the brilliant accompaniment
of Bernard Hildaís Orchestra, with a great
solo violin throughout the whole piece, is
superb. Trenetís voice tells you that he is
in a light-hearted mood again as he appears
to be walking somewhere and explaining all
about everything he sees.
I listened to "Jardins du mois de mai"
I had the feeling that in spite of that lilt
Trenet has when he sings, his voice had a
poignant note. I wonder if the poignant note
was due to the fact that just a month before
WW2 had been declared. The next song is ĎLe
soleil et la lune". To me this is a comic,
up-tempo number, and the Gallic character
of Trenet is obvious as he goes into one of
his comic routines too. Itís clever and Trenet
twists and weaves the words around perfectly.
But this is not one for me. I also found it
difficult to like the next song, "Mamízelle
Clio", mainly because it was unlike any
of Trenetís usual numbers. However, "Verlaine"
I liked as soon as I heard Le Jazz de Paris
play the introduction to this light, slow,
romantic melody. When Trenet starts to sings
his voice matches the orchestra perfectly.
There are some fine instrumentalists here
and I particularly liked the trombone and
trumpet. This delightful song has an air of
sophistication and the addition of the solos
I thought gave it an American influence. Next
with the same orchestra we have "Terre".
This is Trenet in swing mood. "Tombé
du ciel" follows and is a soothing, easy
number, especially after the previous one.
I thought it was also similar to Trenetís
greatest hit, "La Mer". The war
had been over two years by the time of this
recording and a song such as this was one
that could be enjoyed without any thought
of what the morrow might bring.
is evident Trenet is having a rendezvous with
a girl in his next song "Le retour des
saisons". He sings a semi-duet with a
girl here, although her contribution is mainly
a delighted giggle half way through. I wonder
who she was. With the same orchestra
Trenet sings a delightful little song "Marie
Marie" in a very soft-voiced mode and
with great tenderness. The sweetness is helped
by a lovely contribution from the muted trumpet.
The final song on the disc is from 1948 and
is "Coquelicot". Although not a
particularly outstanding number itís reminder
of Charles Trenetís many versatile talents
and rounds things off with a flourish.
is this reason that I recommend the disc in
which Naxos has once again produced an outstanding