LABELS: L’empreinte digitale
WORKS: Flute Sonata; Sonata for Two Clarinets; Élégie for horn & piano; Piano Sonata (four hands); Sextet
PERFORMER: Ensemble Petra, etc
CATALOGUE NO: ED 13114
In its Poulenc disc, Ensemble Petra reveals itself as a feisty group not afraid to let rip: there’s a clangorous opening to the Piano Sonata for four hands; in the Sonata for Two Clarinets the players chase each other with screeching abandon, while the Sextet’s vital rhythms are kept urgent. Apart from a darkly luminous performance of the Élégie for horn and piano, however, I feel Poulenc deserves more variety. Ensemble Petra relies too much on the composer’s textures for dynamic contrast, for shifts in nuance and mood. Sometimes the music cries out for soft tones. The too strait-laced reading of the Flute Sonata was the biggest disappointment.
In the same Sonata, Emily Beynon with pianist Andrew West fare far better on their disc of works by the composers of Les Six. With her pure, bright tone and, together, their taut rhythmic sense, they capture the extrovert nature of Poulenc’s writing, but also draw on an inward-looking wistful tone where appropriate. Particularly impressive are Auric’s Imaginées I, Poulenc’s Valse and Honegger’s Danse de la chèvre, which show that in order for the true spirit of the pieces to emerge, be it ironic, whimsical or thought-provoking, contrast – whether subtle or sudden – is crucial. Otherwise where’s the intrigue? Kate Sherriff