Poulenc: Chamber Music, Vol 2; Chamber Music, Vol 3

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Chamber Music, Vol 2; Chamber Music, Vol 3
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud, François Chaplin (piano), Françoise Groben (cello), Graf Mourja (violin), Ronald Van Spaendonck, André Moisan (clarinet), Laurent Lefèvre (bassoon), Hervé Joulain (horn), Guy Touvron (trumpet), Jacques Mauger (trombone)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553612, 8.553613
The first volume in this series of Poulenc’s chamber music was a bit of a mixed bag. These two instalments fare marginally better, with Vol. 2 making by far the more enjoyable recital. This may be more by accident than design, as this series suffers more than most from ‘completitis’. This malady afflicts recording projects when, in the desire to include every single work in a given remit, the overall musical experience is forgotten. It is a pity, because there are wonderfully spiky moments from Graf Mourja in the Stravinskian Violin Sonata, and Ronald Van Spaendonck’s control of the haunting slow movement in the Clarinet Sonata is mesmerising. Nonetheless, it is disconcerting, to say the least, to spend about 20 minutes in the engagingly natural acoustic of the violin works, only to be shoved up the bell of Spaendonck’s clarinet a few seconds after the Bagatelle ends.

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Vol. 3 would have worked better on vinyl as there is a clear demarcation between the four-hand piano works and the remaining filler-like miscellania. In the former, Alexandre Tharaud and François Chaplin are most at home in the serious side to ‘Janus’ Poulenc, staying resolutely strait-laced in the Capriccios and L’embarquement pour Cythère. Christopher Dingle