Poulenc: Les Animaux modèles; Concert champêtre; Improvisations 13 & 15

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COMPOSERS: Poulenc arr. Stefano Bollani
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: Les animaux modèles; Concert champêtre; Improvisations Nos 13 & 15 (elaborated Bollani)
PERFORMER: Stefano Bollani (piano); Filarmonica ’900 del Teatro Regio di Torino/Jan Latham-Koenig
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2135

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Not everyone will warm to Stefano Bollani’s jazz improvisations on two of Poulenc’s Improvisations, and some of the booklet’s French titling is less than correct. But there the carping ends. This is a disc to treasure.

The well-known description of Poulenc as half monk, half yobbo is good as far as it goes, but he was a lot more than that. Pianists and singers have long responded to the deep sensuality of his music – deep enough to cause any Father Abbot the gravest concern – as well as to the bouts of crazy high spirits.

Here in, for example, ‘L’homme entre deux ages’ in Les animaux modèles, Poulenc’s prestissimo is precisely that, while the glorious final return of the opening music is played with huge affection. Should the Concert champêtre be performed on the piano? Poulenc said no, but did it often.

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Bollani’s lightly pedalled sound is, for me, utterly convincing and the balance between piano and orchestra is ideal. As a further incitement, with Jonathan Darlington’s recording of Les animaux modèles deleted, this is the only current version complete.Roger Nichols