Episode 150. Poulenc & Bernac

Episode 150. Poulenc and Bernac (Pride 2022)



Francis Poulenc and Pierre Bernac phographed by Richard Avedon

Something about this week’s episode has really gotten to me. I guess I’m just madly in love with the melodies of Francis Poulenc, and as a result, increasingly in love with the artistry of Pierre Bernac. These two formed an artistic partnership similar in intensity to that shared by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, except that in the case of the Gallic couple, this alliance did not include a romantic element. In spite of that, the pair achieved an artistic intimacy that is sometimes almost painfully honest. Maybe it’s that part of their story that so moves me: that two gay men, neither one sexually involved with the other, still achieved, on an altogether different plane, the deepest kind of intimacy. This episode features performances of the duo in melodies by Poulenc set to texts by Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Éluard and Louise de Vilmorin, as well as songs by Chabrier, Debussy, Chausson, and Samuel Barber. We also hear Bernac performing Bach and Schumann in collaboration with Robert Casadesus, Charles Munch, and Roger Désormière; and Poulenc accompanying singers Denise Duval, Hugues Cuénod, Geneviève Touraine, and Bernard Kruysen in both live and studio recordings. The episode features extensive discussion, mostly from Bernac’s book on Poulenc and his songs, of Poulenc’s devotion to poetry and his very particular compositional method of getting to the heart of a poem.


Francis Poulenc, Guillaume Apollinaire: Hôtel (Banalités, FP 107-2). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1960]

Guillaume Apollinaire

Claude Debussy, François Villon: Ballade que Villon fait à la requeste de sa mère pour prier Notre-Dame (Trois ballades de François Villon, L.126a/2). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [live Festival de Bordeaux 26.V.52]

Emmanuel Chabrier

Emmanuel Chabrier, Éphraïm Mikhaël: L’île heureuse. Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1936]

Éphraïm Mikhaël
Ernest Chausson

Ernest Chausson, Leconte de Lisle: Le colibri, Op. 2/7. Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1940]

Darius Milhaud, Léo Latil: La tourterelle (Quatre Poèmes de Léo Latil, Op. 20/4). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1936]

The Young Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber, Rainer Maria Rilke: Tombeau dans un parc (Mélodies passagères, Op. 27/4). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1952]

Charles Munch

Johann Sebastian Bach: Deine Güte, dein Erbarmen (Meine Seele rühmt und preist, BWV 189). Pierre Bernac, Orchestra conducted by Charles Münch [1943]

Robert Casadesus

Robert Schumann, Heinrich Heine: Allnächtlich im Traume (Dichterliebe, Op. 48/14). Pierre Bernac, Robert Casadesus [1952]

Maurice Fombeure

Francis Poulenc, Maurice Fombeure: Le mendiant (Chansons villageoises, FP117/4). Pierre Bernac, Roger Désormière, Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française [live Paris 24.IV.44]

Francis Poulenc and Bernard Kruysen in concert, Festival de Monton 1962

Claude Debussy, Charles d’Orléans: Pour ce que Plaisance et morte (Trois Chansons de France, L.115/3. Bernard Kruysen, Francis Poulenc [live Festival de Menton 1962]

Geneviève Touraine

Francis Poulenc, Louise de Vilmorin: Violon (Fiançailles pour rire, FP101/4). Geneviève Touraine, Francis Poulenc [1954]

Louise de Vilmorin
Hugues Cuénod

Francis Poulenc, Guillaume Apollinaire: Bleuet, FP 102. Hugues Cuénod, Francis Poulenc [Radio Suisse Romande 09.XII.53]

Guillaume Apollinaire
Francis Poulenc and Denise Duval

Francis Poulenc, Paul Éluard: Main dominée par le cœur. FP135. Denise Duval, Francis Poulenc [live Bordeaux 16.V.58]

Paul Éluard
Pierre Bernac

Francis Poulenc, Paul Éluard: Tu vois le feu du soir (Miroirs brûlants, FP98/1), Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1958]

Paul Éluard
Francis Poulenc and his beloved Mickey

Francis Poulenc, Louise de Vilmorin: C’est ainsi que tu es (Métamorphoses, FP121/2). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1958]

Louise de Vilmorin photographed by Cecil Beaton

Francis Poulenc, Guillaume Apollinaire: Sanglots (Banalités, FP107/5). Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc [1960]

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