It’s a brave company which chooses to record these wonderful works
for there is stiff competition from older recordings which either
feature the composer as soloist or were made in his presence.
Of course, we must hear contemporary musicians in this music and
it is most pleasing to report that these performances are very
musical and enjoyable.
with Poulenc’s least successful concerted work, the Piano
Concerto, Pommier makes the most of a rather dry, and unsympathetic,
work but brings out the humour of the finale well, with its
second subject which sounds curiously like “Way Down upon the
Swannee River” - the work was commissioned by the Boston Symphony
and I’ve often wondered if this was a deliberate joke or an
delicious Concert champêtre was written for the formidable Landowska and is full of Mozartean
surprises - even down to a brazen, and hilarious, quote from
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in the brass. Maggie Cole plays
very well indeed but the first movement is a trifle rushed and
thus some of the charm is lacking. The other two movements are
performance of the Organ Concerto cannot be faulted.
Although Mozart was Poulenc’s musical God this work looks even
further backwards, to the idea of the organ music of Bach which
is then filtered through the wrong note harmony of Les Six and
the music of the 1920s. The work is a joy and Weir and Hickox
make the most of the jokes by simply playing the notes and letting
the music speak for itself. Balance and sound are excellent
second disk starts with a wonderful performance of the Double
Piano Concerto. This work is absolute perfection – in it,
Poulenc successfully marries together his love of Mozart, Parisian
Music Hall and Javanese gamelan. It’s a delightful romp, always
in the best possible taste, of course, full of good tunes, brilliant
orchestration and Poulenc’s own quirkiness. The slow movement
is meltingly beautiful. The music really sparkles in this performance.
Aubade is more austere in its language, but this dance
piece for piano with only eighteen instruments is in the old
manner, full of a bye gone age at the French Court. It comes
as a shock after the Concerto, but once you get over
that it’s a most satisfying piece.
Sinfonietta was commissioned by the BBC and is Poulenc’s
only symphonic work. There is some lovely music in here but
it does outstay its welcome and, fair to say, it’s not really
up to Poulenc’s usual enjoyable standard – perhaps the mere
effort of having to write a piece which wasn’t in his being,
brought about the poorer work.
goes without saying that the creator recordings – Duruflé
in the Organ Concerto and Poulenc and Février in the Double
Concerto – will take a lot of beating but this is a very good
collection, and for anyone simply wanting this music – who doesn’t?
– this is an outstanding bargain. The sound is excellent, the
notes, in three languages, perfunctory.