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Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonata for Flute and Piano, FP 164 (1957) [12:41]
Sonata for Cello and Piano, FP143 (1948) [24:23]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano (1995) [19:15]
Berceuse for Cello and Piano (1953) [3:51]
Nocturne for Cello and Piano (1951) [3:29]
Divertimento for Flute and Piano (1953) [10:55]
Sarah Rumer (flute)
Joël Marosi (cello)
Ulrich Koella (piano)
rec. 2015, Studio Ernest Ansermet, Geneva
PROSPERO PROSP0006 [74:34]

The pairing of chamber music by Francis Poulenc and Jean Françaix is apposite. Roughly contemporary, a mere thirteen years separates their births, the music here has many similarities. Blithe, sunny and imbued with charm and wit, these are works that can, for the most part, be guaranteed to lift the spirits.

The popularity of Poulenc’s Sonata for Flute and Piano has guaranteed it a prominent place in the flute repertoire. Dedicated to the American arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, it was composed for the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, and he and Poulenc premiered it at the Strasbourg Music Festival in June 1957. The work contrast’s the composer’s melancholy and joy, indeed he marks the opening movement Allegro malinconico. The Cantilena middle movement hints at sadness and regret, whilst the finale is bright and cheery, casting aside those bittersweet moments.

Poulenc’s four movement Sonata for Cello and Piano captivates with its melodic largesse, which is bright and breezy. It predates the Flute Sonata by nearly ten years. Stravinsky comes to mind in the spiky and effervescent first movement. Calm descends in the Cavatine which follows, with its nostalgic glow. The scherzo-like third movement is titled Ballabile, meaning “suitable for dancing”. Marosi and Koella inject plenty of infectious glee into the music. The last movement has a serious demeanour to begin with, then turns frolicsome, before calling time in more subdued fashion.

Jean Françaix’s Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano is a late work, penned in 1995, the year before his death. This sun-drenched score epitomizes the composer’s mindset, when he expressed his lifelong intention to produce “serious music without gravity”. Apart from the slow movement, which is dreamy and musing, the other three movements are joyous and playful. Almost forty years earlier, he’d composed his Divertimento for Flute and piano, consisting of five short movements. A spirited Toccatina sets the ball rolling, followed by a radiant Notturno. The Perpetuum mobile is almost an étude for flute, and Rumer delivers it with scintillating virtuosity. The lush Romanza is beguiling, with the jaunty finale ending the work in upbeat fashion.

A pianist, himself, Françaix often partnered the cellist Maurice Gendron on tours. The cellist made the two arrangements featured on the disc, namely the Berceuse and the Nocturne. The former is derived from the composer’s L’Apostrophe, whilst the latter is taken from Les Demoiselles de la nuit. Both pieces are enchanting and richly melodic, and Marosi brings warmth and overflowing tenderness to both.

Prospero’s sound is warm and embracing, and the balance between all three instruments couldn’t be bettered. These life-enhancing scores could have no better advocates.

Stephen Greenbank

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