Poulenc: L’embarquement pour Cythère; Sonata for Two Pianos

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WORKS: L’embarquement pour Cythère; Sonata for Two Pianos
PERFORMER: Roland Pöntinen, Love Derwinger (pianos); Malmö SO/Osmo Vänskä
Vibrant, idiomatic and lavishly detailed accounts of Poulenc’s two-piano works, from Swedish compatriots Pöntinen and Derwinger. Protégés of that doyen of Scandinavian pianism, Gunnar Hallhagen, this formidable duo readily eclipse even the Labèque sisters in this repertoire. There’s a measure of disappointment, though, with the first work recorded here, the D minor Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. This is a difficult instrumental combination to record, especially in music as demonstrative as this, and the balance here inevitably favours the soloists, to the exclusion of much orchestral detail. None the less, there’s scintillating playing here, intelligently supported by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä. The concerto allies Stravinskian neo-classicism with the abrasive modernity of Prokofiev’s piano writing, interpolating the Balinese gamelan music first heard in Paris in 1931; even so, the Gallic nonchalance of Poulenc’s maturity is never deeply concealed. The longest work included is the Sonata for Two Pianos, written in 1952 for the American duo Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale. Love Derwinger plays Piano I in this fastidious performance, again more convincing than the slightly wayward Labèque version. The remaining items are less weighty, but each is effectively characterised, and delectably played. L’embarquement pour Cythère, a delightful miniature culled from the film score Le voyage en Amérique, represents Poulenc at his best; urbane, exuberant, and unerringly civilised. Michael Jameson