One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Concerto pour deux pianos et orchestra, en ré mineur* (1932) [19:13]
Concerto pour piano et orchestre (1949) [19:47]
Aubade, concerto chorégraphique pour piano et dix-huit instruments (1930) [21:18]
Frank Braley*, Eric Le Sage (pianos)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/Stéphane Denève
rec. Salle Philharmonique, Liège, 17-20 December 2003
BMG RCA RED SEAL 82876 603082 [60:01]

If you think of Poulenc principally as a purveyor of sophistication and boulevardier wit, the violent opening of the Concerto for Two Pianos - crackling chords ushering in a demonic moto perpetuo - will come as a shock. In the quieter second subject, the rich chords which in other Poulenc scores create a jazz flavor here produce an anxious undercurrent, which paradoxically intensifies as the music gets softer. The final, bounding section of the movement recalls Shostakovich, with elegance tempering the spikiness. The central Larghetto movement begins with an almost childlike simplicity - Jean-Jacques Velly, in the booklet, suggests a homage to Poulenc's favorite composer, Mozart - but, before two minutes have passed, shifting harmonies once again evoke a troubled air. Only the Finale - once past its ominous beginning - offers the composer's familiar bubbly good humor.

The lush, softer-edged sounds introducing the (one-)Piano Concerto are more typical of the composer. After presenting a bright, chipper interlude at 2:13 for contrast, Poulenc melts it into and out of the softer sonorities which began the movement - a nice display of compositional prestidigitation. A broad horn call at 3:10 injects a Straussian note into the agitated development of the initially tranquil Andante con moto, while the final Rondeau, with its quotes of "Swanee River" (which apparently disturbed some in the premiere audience), skitters about entertainingly.

The Aubade is less a virtuoso concerto than a concertante chamber work, simultaneously conceived as a ballet. As befits Poulenc's original classical scenario, centering on the chastity of Diana, the moon goddess - the composer disowned the expanded plot concocted by George Balanchine for the 1930 premiere - the music frequently sings with a correspondingly chaste line, occasionally, as in La toilette de Diane, breaking into a sprightly, frolicsome mood.

Eric Le Sage performs creditably and deftly in Aubade and the solo concerto; his tone quality is decently weighted, not flinty, though I would have liked a wider variety of layered colors. Frank Braley joins him for the duo concerto, which they bring off with stunning unanimity. (The purpose of the writing is not, of course, merely to amplify the already formidable volume of a single concert grand, but to expand its possibilities for rapid passagework and leaping figurations, all of which makes rather frightening demands on the players' coordination.)

The Liège Philharmonic winds are excellent - I particularly enjoyed the plangent clarinet, cool, clear flute, and gleaming oboe in Aubade - but the strings are mushy and soft-centered, whether playing as soloists (the uncertainly tuned duetting cellos of the Récitatif in Aubade, track 13) or sectionally (the tentative muted chorale in the piano concerto, track 4, 6:59). RCA, typically, favors a bright sonic image which, unfortunately, turns harsh and edgy in the Piano Concerto (presumably each work required a different mike setup). But even there, as the brass chorale at 6:06 illustrates, the winds emerge with a nice sense of depth.

Despite the orchestral and sonic flaws, as a convenient package of Poulenc's concertante piano works, this disc is recommendable.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.