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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Paul Bowles/Francis Poulenc/Gold and Fizdale - "A Picnic Cantata" Vinyl LP, 1954 (Columbia Masterworks)


Besides this brilliant album cover, it's an excellent recording of a surprised match-up.  The great poet James Schuyler and legendary writer and composer Paul Bowles.  At this time, I can't find any information about this recording or how these two giants met.  Schuyler is very much part of the New York School of Poets and one of my favorite poets.  I love his work which is playful, witty, and significantly profound.   

Schuyler wrote the text to his and Paul Bowles' "A Picnic Cantata" which is pure delight.  The narrative is about women going out for a picnic, and that is basically it.  Nothing happens.  It's interesting that the work is dedicated to "Mrs. William Esty.  Mr. Esty is very much the ultimate Mad Man of Manhattan advertising culture, and Mrs. Esty is Alice Theresa Hildagard Swanson Esty.  She was an opera singer as well as an art patron who I suspected gave financial support to Bowles and Schuyler for this piece of music and text. 
The duo pianos of Gold and Fizdale is superb.  They were active in the 1950s and made a lot of contemporary music of their time.  For instance, Poulenc, whose work takes up side two.   Poulenc, a friend of Jean Cocteau, also knew Erik Satie, and I hear traces of Satie's aesthetic in Poulenc's piano compositions.   The album as a total is a very charming and sophisticated work.  I immediately think of Manhattan and all of its promises of that time.   For those who only know Bowles through his novels and short stories, he had a career as a composer and made the incidental music for Tennessee Williams' original Broadway productions.   For whatever reasons, Bowles gave up music composition and focused on literature.  A fascinating figure in his own right.  As far as I know this album was never released as a CD, or even on the streaming devices.  Still, if you're a vinyl digger in used record stores, it is not that difficult to find.