Poulenc: Piano Concerto; Concerto for Two Pianos; Organ Concerto

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Concerto for Two Pianos; Organ Concerto
PERFORMER: Pascal Rogé, Sylviane Deferne (piano), Peter Hurford (organ); Philharmonia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 436 546-2 DDD
A man ‘in love with life, mischievous, good-hearted, tender and pert, sad and serenely mystical, at once a monk and playboy’ was how Stéphane Audel remembered his friend Poulenc. A patchwork quilt of unforgettable ideas, alternately humorous and hallowed, elegantly crafted and exquisitely coloured, the three works on this new release are enduring testimonies to his ‘wildly eclectic’ art. Ghosts of the past, parodies of friends and contemporaries, lurk tantalisingly among their pages: Rachmaninov, Mahler, Copland in the Piano Concerto (1949); Balinese gamelan and Mozart in the divertissement Double Concerto (1932), described in the booklet notes as ‘a typical cocktail of all that seemed gay and good to Poulenc at the time’; Bach, Tchaikovsky (the Pathétique) in the rightly famous Organ Concerto (1939). Throughout, unmistakably, strolls the master ‘in that lazy way peculiar to him’ (Audel).

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These are brilliant performances. No one understands the language or structure of this music better than Dutoit, and his three soloists are magnificent. Rogé and Deferne are on just the right side of brittleness, and Hurford’s sense of theatre and timing is compelling. The Philharmonia, tight in ensemble and rhythmically athletic, are in a class of their own. Demonstration quality sound, not least in the Organ Concerto (recorded in St Alban’s Cathedral). Ates Orga