Poulenc: Concerto for 2 Pianos (CD review)

Also, Piano Concerto; Aubade. Francois-Rene Duchable, piano; Jean-Philippe Collard, piano; James Conlon, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Warner Classics Apex 2564 62552-2.

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.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa