Yvonne Printemps

Yvonne Printemps

Watch: “Les Chemins de l’amour — ‘Valse chantée’ ” (Francis Poulenc 1899-1963): Sarah Acres (Cello) & Albert Combrink (Piano)
Live Amateur Video recorded at the Casa Labia Cultural Center, Muizenberg, Cape Town, 13 June 2013

Blessed with great singers as collaborators, friends, and most significantly, lovers, Poulenc left behind a substantial legacy of French Artsongs. When I first heard this song, I fell totally in love with it. I didn’t know what it was about, and I wasn’t sure if it was Cabaret or Art Song, but I just knew that this was special and in a class of its own. A lilting waltz that is quintessentially French, and recalls a romantic Paris and a style absolutely personified by Yvonne Printemps. This song appears to stand apart from Poulenc’s substantial body of 135 songs, and if this were the only Poulenc song you ever heard, you might mistake him for a lightweight salon-composer – the song would not seem out of place in a concert by Edith Piaf.

Poulenc’s very famous song, “Les Chemins de l’amour – ‘Valse chantée’ ” is dedicated to Yvonne Printemps and comes from incidental music to the play Léocadia (1940), by Jean Anouilh – the rest of the music is now lost.
“Francis Poulenc – ‘Echo and Source’: Selected Correspondence 1915-1963”; Buckland, Sydney, Victor Gollanz Ltd, London 1991, P.374

Yvonne Printemps (25 July 1894 – 19 January 1977) was a French singer and actress who went on stage in Paris at age 12, achieving stardom on stage and screen in France in particular, but made a big name for herself  and internationally. Printemps was dancing at the Folies Bergère at the age of 13.  Born Yvonne Wigniolle, she was given the sobriquet Printemps (springtime) by her fellow chorus members because of her sunny disposition, and adopted it as her stage name. As a performer, Printemps was famed for the quality of her singing voice and for her personal charm. Among those who composed for her were André Messager, Reynaldo Hahn, Noël Coward and Francis Poulenc. Her voice could have led her to an operatic career, but guided by the actor, director and playwright Sacha Guitry, whom she married, she concentrated on operette and other types of musical show, along with non-musical plays and films. In addition to her many successes in Paris she appeared to great acclaim in the West End of London, and on Broadway in New York.

Yvonne Printemps

Yvonne Printemps

Les Chemins de L’amour – ‘Valse chantée’ (Text by Jean Anouilh, Music by Francis Poulenc), sung by it’s dedicatee Yvonne Printemps

Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh (23 June 1910 – 3 October 1987) was a French dramatist whose career spanned five decades. Though his work ranged from high drama to absurdist farce, Anouilh is best known for his 1943 play Antigone, an adaptation of Sophocles’ classical drama, that was seen as an attack on Marshal Pétain’s Vichy government. One of France’s most prolific writers after World War II, much of Anouilh’s work deals with themes of maintaining integrity in a world of moral compromise.

On 14 June 1940, the Germans marched into Paris

On 14 June 1940, the Germans marched into Paris

Les Chemins de L’amour (Text by Jean Anouilh, Music by Francis Poulenc) – French Lyrics

Les chemins qui vont à la mer
Ont gardé de notre passage
Des fleurs, des feuilles et l’écho sous leurs arbres
De nos deux rires clairs.

Hélas, des jours de bonheur,
Radieuses joies envolées,
Je vais sans retrouver traces dans mon coeur.

Chemins de mon amour,
Je vous cherche toujours.
Chemins perdus vous n’êtes plus
Et vos échos sont sourds.
Chemins du désespoir,
Chemins du souvenir,
Chemins du premier jour,
Divins chemins d’amour.

Si je dois l’oublier un jour,
La vie effaçant toute chose,
Je veux dans mon coeur qu’un souvenir
Repose plus fort que l’autre amour.

Le souvenir du chemin,
Où tremblante et toute éperdue,
Un jour j’ai senti sur moi brûler tes mains

Chemins de mon amour,
Je vous cherche toujours.
Chemins perdus,
Vous n’êtes plus
Et vos échos sont sourds.
Chemins du désespoir,
Chemins du souvenir
Chemins du premier jour,
Divins chemins d’amour.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe;s famous photograph for a 1940 edition of Vogue Magazine

Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s famous photograph for a 1940 edition of Vogue Magazine

Les Chemins de L’amour (Text by Jean Anouilh, Music by Francis Poulenc) – English Translation of Lyrics

The Paths of Love
The paths that arch of the ocean
protect our crossing,
flowers losing their leaves
and the echo under the trees,
Our two bright laughs.
Alas, from days of happiness
radiant joys take flight,
I journey without recovering your traces
In my heart.

Paths of my love
I try to find you always
lost paths, you don’t exist anymore,
And your echoes have been muffled.
Paths of despair,
Paths of memory,
Paths of first love,
Divine pathways of love.

This I am duty-bound to forget one day
the way that life obliterates all things.
I want in my heart that a memory will rest
More strongly than another love.
The memory of paths
Where trembling and completely passionate,
a day I have felt above myself
to burn and be consumed by your hands.

An exquisite “RETHINK” by Pianist Jacky Terrasson

And of course, Jessye Norman, who virtually “owns” this song amongst modern performers.

And here is an exquisitely musical performance by Trupmet genius Sergei Nakariakov, played on the melancholy FlugelHorn

Les Chemins de L’amour – ‘Valse chantée’ (Text by Jean Anouilh, Music by Francis Poulenc), sung by Veronique Gens accompanied by Roger Vignoles

Buy Sheet Music for Poulenc’s “Les Chemins de L’amour” HERE.

Music Students can Buy an MP3 of the accompaniment to Poulenc’s “Les Chemins de L’amour” HERE.


“Les Chemins de L’amour” Sung by Marc et André

The following is translated commentary form the Youtube Channel of  “DominiqueHMG”

“This song is from the album “Songs of theater”, prefaced by Jean Vilar, where Mark and Andrew have won the Grand Prix du Disque (Académie du Disque French). Mark and Andrew were the appointed singers of the NPT and the disc includes 20 tracks in most of their repertoire in this very specific area of ​​songs written for the theater. A CD reissue of this album existed but is now unavailable.

“Paths of Love”, lyrics by Jean Anouilh, music by Francis Poulenc, was written for the play Leocadia, established in Paris in 1940. It is interpreted here as a soloist with the only Andre (Andre Schlesser), support being provided by the orchestra of Georges Delerue.

Because it was composed by Francis Poulenc, a musician from the milieu of classical music, this song has been wrongly considered a “French melody” and singers took it over, to do what ‘they are used to doing”, that is to say: put the text under the walnut swelling of the voice, unable to utter the syllables correctly when the voice  has to fight being covered by the sound of a grand piano in a large room full of reverberant sound.

To understand my point, simply refer to “related videos” proposed by Youtube that will make you hear “the ways of love” in other contexts. With rare exceptions (eg Yvonne Printemps, whose style is halfway between the song and classical opera), we simply do not understand the words. And therefore what we hear can no longer be considered a song. Under these conditions, we simply enjoy the music of Poulenc and the approval of those experienced in the art of bel canto voice. It is also for this reason that these videos are content usually mention the name of Francis Poulenc to forget the lyricist, playwright Jean Anouilh.”



Watch a Film of the Original “Léocadia” by Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh:

Printemps 3 Printemps 2