Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hôtel (Apollinaire–Poulenc)

The poet Kenward Elmslie says somewhere in an interview that he has enough French to know that "Hôtel" is the most beautiful song ever written. That remark got me started listening to Francis Poulenc's music some years ago.

"Hôtel" is Poulenc's setting of a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, from the five-song sequence Banalités (1940):


Ma chambre a la forme d'une cage
Le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre
Mais moi qui veux fumer pour faire des mirages
J'allume a feu du jour ma cigarette
Je ne veux pas travailler je veux fumer


My room is shaped like a cage
The sun puts its arm through the window
But I who want to smoke and make smoke dreams
I light my cigarette with daylight
I don't want to work I want to smoke

[My translation.]
Poulenc wrote "Hôtel" for the male voice (baritone), but women now sing it too. Here's a beautiful performance, alas anonymous: "Hôtel" (YouTube). Bernard Kruysen's recording (with Jean Charles Richard, piano, on an old LP) is my favorite.

Nineteen years after I stopped smoking, I have cigarettes on my mind. Mais je ne veux pas fumer.

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this! I'm singing this song this semester, and it's nice having someone else's view on the piece.

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome, Anon. Do great!