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André Caplet, Emmanuel Chabrier, Gabriel Fauré, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc

Hugues Cuénod sings French song

Hugues Cuénod sings French song
Composers André Caplet, Emmanuel Chabrier, Gabriel Fauré, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc
Singer Hugues Cuénod
Pianist Martin Isepp
Genre Recital

Hughes Cuénod

Hughes Cuénod was a one-off. Both his sound and his appearance were
unmistakeable. He was not destined to play romantic or heroic leading roles,
but rather carved for himself a unique identity in specific ‘character’ parts and
as an interpreter of song. He created the auctioneer Sellem at the première of
Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress in Venice in 1951 and repeated it at Glyndebourne
during the 1950s. No-one has matched the haughty insouciance of his ‘La!
come bid. Hmm! some buy’ and ‘Poof! Go high!’ as he effortlessly dominated
the bidding scene at the start of Act 3. He was an ineffably wry Don Basilio in
Nozze di Figaro, and his cameo as Monsieur Triquet virtually ‘stole the show’ in
Eugene Onegin. When Glyndebourne brought Tchaikovsky’s opera to the BBC
Proms on 11 August 1970, his thread of tone in the two-stanza aria in tribute
to the peerless Tatyana of Elisabeth Söderström was heard in hushed silence
by the capacity audience before being greeted by prolonged applause which
took him completely by surprise. An indelible memory for all who witnessed it.
Cuénod was born on 26 June 1902 in the Swiss town of Corseaux-sur-Vevey,
where his father was mayor. Aged 11, he attended the 78 th birthday party of
Camille Saint-Saëns. He made his stage début in 1928 in Paris in Krenek’s
Jonny spielt auf and his American début in 1929 in Noël Coward’s Bitter Sweet.
During the mid-1930s he joined Nadia Boulanger’s group of singers and may be
heard in their pioneering recordings of Monteverdi Madrigals made in 1937.
He resumed an operatic career after the war, and his reedy but beautifully
clear vocal colour and diction may be heard in the high-lying role of the
Astrologer in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel at Covent Garden and as a
wickedly comic King Ouf in Chabrier’s L’étoile, both available on mpLive. His
technique enabled him to continue singing into his 80s: he made his Met début
as the Emperor Altoum in Turandot aged 84. He taught after retiring from the
stage, and died aged 108 on 6 December 2010.
During the late 1960s, BBC Radio 3 valuably captured Cuénod’s art as an
interpreter of French chanson, including elegantly stylish selections from
Chabrier, Fauré, Poulenc, the Swiss-French Arthur Honegger, and the still more
rarely performed contemporary and friend of Debussy, André Caplet, whose
almost conversational style is beautifully captured by Cuénod and his pianist

Martin Isepp in his Cinq Ballades françaises from 1920. Cuénod begins several
of the Fauré songs with a thread of tone, caressing the melody while pointing
the words, but capable of building to a firm climax. His moulding of
L’inscription sur le sable is an object lesson in how to sustain a line with slender
means. Cuénod shows a special affinity with the charmingly eclectic style of
his compatriot Honegger and with the wicked humour of his friend Poulenc’s
Quatre chansons pour enfants from 1934. It is as if he is a child. Cuénod’s is an
art which conceals art, natural and without artifice.

Nicholas Payne

Track 1:

Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924)

  1. Au cimitière
  2. Spleen
  3. Le parfum impérissable
  4. Prison

Track 2:

André Caplet

5 Ballades Françaises

  1. Cloche d’aube
  2. La ronde
  3. Notre chaumière en Yveline
  4. Songe d’une nuit d’été
  5. L’adieu en barque

Track 3:

Emmanuel Chabrier

La Villanelle des petits canards

Track 4:

Gabriel Fauré

Inscription sur le sable (from Le jardin Clos)

Track 5:

Arthur Honnegger (1892 – 1955)

Saluste du Bartas (6 Villanelles)

  1. Le Chateau du Bartas
  2. Tout le long de la Baïse
  3. Le départ
  4. La promenade
  5. Nérac en fête
  6. Duo

Track 6:

Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)

Quatre chansons pour enfants

  1. La tragique histoire du petit René
  2. Nous voulons une petite soeur
  3. Le petit garçon trop bien portant
  4. Monsieur Sans Souci


The recordings that make up this issue are from the Saul Collection in Music Preserved.

  • Hugues Cuénod
  • Martin Isepp

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Music Preserved offers you the choice of listening to many of the rare, historically and artistically interesting recordings in its collection.