Poulenc: Cello Sonata; Sonata for two pianos; Suite Française (arr. from chamber suite); Two Song Arrangements (arr. J York); Sérénade (arr. M Gendron)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: ASV Gold
ALBUM TITLE: Poulanc Works for `Cello and `Piano
WORKS: Cello Sonata; Sonata for two pianos; Suite Française (arr. from chamber suite); Two Song Arrangements (arr. J York); Sérénade (arr. M Gendron)
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York, Fiona York (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GLD 4014
The content of this disc is a curious mixture. Since, even with arrangements by Poulenc, Maurice Gendron and John York himself, it was not possible to find more than 40 minutes of music for cello and piano, the disc has been filled out with the Sonata for two pianos. A superlative performance, full of life, colour and power, only emphasises that the work is a masterpiece on a higher level than anything else being offered.

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Opinions differ over the Cello Sonata. Ates¸ Orga in his sleeve note takes me to task for claiming that many passages would sound better on the bassoon. To choose two especially ‘cellistic’ passages, as he does, hardly gets us any further – certainly not when Poulenc himself more than once lamented his lack of sympathy with string instruments. Raphael Wallfisch is well up to the technical challenges (though why no downward glissando just before fig. 8 in the second movement?) and mercifully gives us ‘straight’ performances, without any sickly lingering, for which York provides strongly rhythmical support, as well as being more obedient than Février (who partners Fournier on EMI) to the composer’s pedal markings. The second movement is delightfully sparky, even if the start of the Andante doesn’t quite catch the hushed magic of the earlier disc. The arrangements all work well. Roger Nichols