Poulenc: Promenades; Nocturnes; Intermezzi

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COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Promenades; Nocturnes; Intermezzi
PERFORMER: Olivier Cazal (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553929
As befits a 20th-century Schubert, the songs of Poulenc have established themselves before the piano music. Before the keyboard will handle its technical quirks, pianists have to crack a kind of expressive code. Then it reveals a lyrical sensitivity that may rage or relish, but above all sings. Rogé has already shown himself an adept, and as he completes his cycle, here is Cazal opening another that reaches different facets of the music’s soul.

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While Rogé’s performances are poised and suave, Cazal’s live nearer the edge. He plays a drier-toned Baldwin rather than a Steinway, and keeps a touch of watchfulness over expansive, romantic joys as though (rightly) not trusting their staying power when threatened by pain and regret. This balance tends to go in his favour for character pieces, and in Rogé’s for longer works.

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Take Promenades: Cazal projects a wild, shrieking energy for ‘En bateau’ which Rogé comes nowhere near, though ‘En avion’ finds him laboured alongside Rogé, who hovers almost timelessly. But the selections overlap little. Cazal touches the profundities of the Nocturnes, and phrases their Schumann-like epilogue with tenderness. Rogé is at his elegant best in Mélancolie and in the Renaissance evocations of the Suite française. Robert Maycock