The inspiration for Poulenc's "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant" occurred in a rather unusual way. The composer was sitting at the piano one day in 1940, idly improvising, when the five-year-old daughter of a cousin of his came up and said, "Uncle Francis, what's that you're playing? It's very boring," and thrust her copy of The Story of Babar on to his music desk. "Play this instead!" (Babar had been published just a year or two earlier by Jean de Brunhoff, and swiftly became the favorite of children throughout France). With great equanimity, Poulenc began to improvise some music to the text. As you might imagine, these improvisations became a family favorite, and this same little niece insisted on hearing it every time Uncle Francis visited. In fact, her continual pestering finally convinced him to have it published. Writing in 1945 to his friend Henri Sauguet, Poulenc noted his thoughts as to a subtitle: "Dix-huit coups d'oeil sur la queue d'un jeune Ã©lÃ©phant", which translates roughly as "eighteen glances at the tail of a young elephant". Poulenc, an inveterate jokester, could not have been unaware of the previous year's publication of Messiaen's 'Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant JÃ©sus' ("Twenty Glimpses of the Infant Jesus").
David writes: "I first recited parts of Babar with my mother as a child in the 1970s, as part of her popular children's concert series. Imagine my delight to rediscover this work as an adult, with my wife Melissa, and now to get to record it for the first time with her too!"
Melissa writes: "Babar was one of my favorite childhood stories. I chose it for my first professional Bay Area appearance in 1995, and it has been part of my repertoire ever since. How wonderful it has been to perform Poulenc's charming score for live audiences -- and now for all of you!"
ABOUT MELISSA SMITH
Melissa Smith began studying the piano at age seven in Havre, Montana, and performed her first solo recital at age 14. Currently she is a recitalist and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. About her performances of Poulenc's music:
"This new recording will be enjoyed by children and their parents for years to come. What a treat to hear Poulenc's piano score played with verve and droll humor and to hear the story read with drama and fun! Congratulations to Melissa Smith and David Saslav for a grand collaboration!" -- Ann S., Overton, TX
"...pure, unadulterated delight...simply blissful..." (from "The Story of Babar" with actor Steven Patterson -- Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Examiner)
"...a deft capturing of the wit and humor of Francis Poulenc's music..." (from "C'est Poulenc" -- Edith GÃ¼nther, 21st Century Music)
"...played with her usual discernment and grace..." (from Fresh Voices II Festival -- Michael McDonagh, 21st Century Music)
ABOUT DAVID SASLAV
David Saslav has sung operatic roles and solo recitals throughout the Bay Area. He can be heard monthly as the tenor soloist at the Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco; in performance with the Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo; and as part of the newly-formed, eight-voice men's a cappella ensemble, "Musaic" (http://www.musaicsf.org/). He is founder and director of "Ora*Cappella", an employee-based a cappella choir at Oracle Corporation, where he works full time. His compositions may be found at http://members.sibeliusmusic.com/dsaslav/.
Check out the artist's website:
1. The Story of Babar, The Little Elephant