Flute Sonata; Sextet; Aubade; La bal masqué
Roderick Williams (baritone), Emer McDonough (flute), Mark Bebbington (piano); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Jan Latham-Koenig
Resonus RES 10276 67:53 mins
It’s easy to take Poulenc’s ‘malinconico’ marking in the opening Allegro movement of his Flute Sonata too literally. The melancholy in flautist Emer McDonough’s interpretation is certainly present, but it’s lightly carried and flecked with delightfully elegant turns of phrase, exquisitely echoed by Mark Bebbington’s piano. The central ‘Cantilena’ is plangently eloquent, and the Finale has an irresistible élan and piquancy.
McDonough and Bebbington feature again in Poulenc’s Sextet, along with unnamed clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn soloists from the Royal Philharmonic, where McDonough is principal flute. Together they strike a virtually perfect balance between the amiable garrulity of the piece and its more pensive shadings, in the sober coda to the Finale particularly.
Nineteen was the maximum number of players allowed in London’s Cadogan Hall for these Covid recording sessions, just enough for Poulenc’s Aubade. Bebbington injects a nerve-sharpening urgency into the opening ‘Toccata’, and scampers playfully through the Presto with his agile RPO wind soloists. Pert and peppy as a whole, the reading also catches the sober hue of the ‘Conclusion’ effectively.
Roderick Williams is the baritone soloist in Le bal masqué, and while the words he sings are just a notch or two above nonsense, it would have been useful to have them in the CD booklet. But the madcap insouciance of the music, fizzing with comic-strip immediacy, is splendidly recreated by the small chamber ensemble, and Williams bosses the syllabic onslaught with a nimble relish. All told, a delectable addition to the Poulenc discography.