Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos

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WORKS: Concerto for two pianos; Concert champêtre; Suite Française
PERFORMER: Claire Chevallier (piano); Katerina Chroboková (harpsichord); Anima Eterna Brugge/Jos van Immerseel


With their bright woodwind and biting brass, French orchestras sound different to the rest. But before the LP era, the difference was much greater. In their latest ‘project’, Bruges’s finest have made a stunning attempt to create the 1930s Parisian sound. As well as the orchestral poster colours, they employ Erard pianos to give the Double Concerto an entrancing mix of overtones, adding an extra dimension to its gamelan effects.

The Concert champêtre didn’t entirely suit the modern harpsichord for which it was written, so here they opt for a copy of an 18th-century instrument. It highlights the music’s melancholy and amplifies the contrast between soloist and large orchestra. Everything is beautifully played; the only weakness in the performance is a stolidity about
the wilder passages.


Part of this effect comes from an alarmingly boomy acoustic that recalls old days in northern English town halls. Low brass and percussion can get heavy, and the bass drum at the end of the Concert champêtre’s first movement goes off like a gun. Slow music fares best: both Concertos’ middle movements are especially touching. Robert Maycock