Poulenc: Concerto for 2 Pianos (CD review)
Apex is a bargain line from Warner Classics, and you'll find a few gems among their releases, mostly culled from the Erato label. This one, for example, originally recorded in 1984, is well worth pursuing: three piano concertos from French composer and pianist Francis Poulenc (1899-1963).
For me, the highlight of the disc is the first item, the Concerto for 2 Pianos in D minor (1932). It is an entirely lightweight, festive affair, totally entertaining from start to finish. The first movement is wonderfully robust and sparkling; the slow second movement is a graceful tribute to Mozart, reminiscent of the "Romance" from his Piano Concerto No. 20; and the third movement is full of playful good cheer.
The simple Concerto for Piano (1949) follows, and it, too, is full of joy, meant only to entertain and to do so in robust style. It is only the Aubade (1929), a piano "concerto choregraphique," a piano concerto set to ballet, that gets in the least bit serious. Yet even here, the story of Diana, virgin goddess of the moon and the hunt, is hardly grave. It is scored for an accompaniment of eighteen players, mostly winds, and presents a largely delightful vision of mythology.
But as I say, I enjoyed the Concerto for 2 Pianos most of all, with its delightful interplay of piano parts beautifully executed by Francois-Rene Duchable and one of my favorite pianists, Jean-Philippe Collard, ably supported by James Conlon and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
The recording is somewhat dry, but it has an excellent dynamic impact, good orchestral depth, and a fine, wide soundstage. Yes, the disc is worth pursuing for its excellent performances and its acceptable sound.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.