V1746. PIERRE BERNAC, w.Francis Poulenc (Pf.): Songs by Debussy, Ravel, Chabrier, Satie & Poulenc. (Austria) Preiser 93470, recorded 1950. - 717281934701
“Though Pierre Bernac (1899–1979) was the dedicatée of many songs by the likes of Françaix, Jolivet, Hindemith, Berkeley, Honneger, Daniel-Lesur, Sauguet, and Barber, it is his performances of Poulenc’s chansons that remain his strongest claim to fame. He sang the premiere of the Chansons Gaillardes in 1926, then went on to do as much for Cinq Poèmes de Paul Eluard, Calligrammes, Tel jour telle nuit, Le Travail du peintre , and La Fraîcheur et la feu. With Poulenc, too, he formed a celebrated performing duo both on concert tours and in the recording studio.
By no stretch can the voice be called beautiful. It was a dry baryton Martin, almost a tenor in some respects, lacking the honeyed beauty of Vanni Marcoux or Gerard Souzay. Where he triumphed was in his ability to communicate character, both in specifics and expressive generalities. To hear his Ravel ‘Histoires naturelles’ is to encounter a series of portraits more akin to fine acting than singing; the narrator who practically loses himself in ecstatic contemplation during ‘Le Cygne’, and describes the guinea hen of ‘Le Pintade’ with ever-shifting facial expressions brings to mind such great French stage and film performers as Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur. Nor is it a reaching analogy, for there is a theatrical tension to many of Bernac’s best performances that threatens to break through the confines of classical chanson. This works very well in Poulenc’s ‘Voyage à Paris’ (from Banalités ), with its swooning lover of all things Parisian, or the ‘caricature voice’ of the ‘Chanson du clair tamis’ ( Chansons villageoises )- or Chabrier’s ‘Villanelle des petits canards’, with its ever so prissy and earnest bourgeois approving of a riverside group of ducks. Diction and enunciation are always immaculate.
I would hesitate to recommend Bernac on the basis of his recordings of 19th-century repertoire (save for Chabrier), but in works by Poulenc, Ravel, and Satie his interpretative abilities and musical presence make him essentially sui generis.”
- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
“Pierre Bernac represents the standard by which many connoisseurs of French art-song interpreters, especially in Poulenc (whose work he inspired and championed for a quarter of a century) are judged….Bernac weaves a strangely hypnotic spell with his constant play of light and shadow, sudden flights into falsetto and vivid, almost grandiloquent diction.”
- Joshua Cohen, CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Summer, 2007