Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Suite from ‘Les Animaux Modèles’ (1942)
Suite from ‘Les Biches’ (1923)
Two pieces from ‘Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel’ (1921)
Deux Marches et un Interlude (1937)
Südwestfunk Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden/Marcello Viotti
Recorded by SWF Baden-Baden in February and July 1990
CLAVES CD 50-9111 [48:39]
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Here is an attractive compilation of witty, colourful music by Francis Poulenc, one of 20th century music’s most delightful and at the same time most enigmatic figures. ‘Les Animaux Modèles’ is a ballet composed during the darkest years of World War II, when France was at the centre of desperate conflict. The music is, in many ways, total escapism, yet the composer couldn’t stop the mood of the times invading the score. However, you won’t find much of that aspect in the Suite recorded here, other than, of course, the dance for ‘La Mort et le Bûcheron’ – ‘Death and the Butcher’ – with its stately, Sarabande-like character. The melody of Le Lion Amoureux (‘The Amorous Lion’), on the other hand, has a magnificent confident sweep to it (track 1, 3:49).

Les Biches (difficult to translate; the Oxford Dictionary of Music suggests ‘The Little Darlings’!) is much earlier Poulenc, dating from the early 1920s, when he was still associated with the enfants térribles of Les Six. It’s effervescent neo-Classical stuff, though with one irresistibly beautiful melody, played first by the oboe at 0:13 on track 6, the lovely Adagietto.

In 1921, Poulenc contributed to the ballet ‘Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel’, an unusual project in which five of Les Six (the odd one out being Durey) collaborated. It’s a knockabout, rather surreal piece, and Poulenc came up with, among other things, the trumpet tune for the rather dotty General (Discours du général), and the delicious La Baigneuse de Trouville (‘The Bathing Beauty of Trouville’).

To complete the CD, we have three little pieces Poulenc wrote for another odd occasion. During the Paris World Fair of 1937, he and Georges Auric, another previous member of Les Six, sat down for supper together, accompanied by music for each course which they themselves had composed (Poulenc’s music being intended, apparently, for the cheese course!).

Entertaining and often hilarious music, then, and it would be nice to be able to report that the playing and recording were equal to the task. Unfortunately, though they play with real feeling for the music, the Baden-Baden Orchestra is far from a great one. The all important woodwind soloists lack distinction, and there is a rather shallow, edgy sound to the tutti which may be at least in part due to an undistinguished recording. Ensemble is not always good, and the big chords at the beginning of ‘Death and the Butcher’, for example, are really very poorly co-ordinated. On the other hand, there is some fine violin playing, and the principal trumpet takes his many opportunities with relish and some style. As performances, though, these do not really rank with Yan Pascal Tortelier’s Les Biches for Chandos, or the excellent recent Animaux Modèles from Jonathan Darlington and the Luxembourg Orchestra on Timpani.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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Suite from 'Les animaux modeles'

Le petit jour - Le Lion amoureux
L'Homme entre deux ages et ses deux maitresses
La morte et le Bucheron
Les deux Coqs - Le Repas de midi

Suite from 'Les Biches'

Rondeau. Tres lent - subito allegro molto
Rag-Mazurka. Presto
Andantino
Final. Presto

From 'Les Maries De La Tour Eiffel'

Discours du general
La Baigneuse de Trouville

Deux Marches Et Un Intermede

Marche 1889
Intermede champetre
Marche 1937

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