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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 10, 2014 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released September 18, 2015 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
The Montreal-born pianist Louis Lortie has emerged as one of the world's top specialists in French music of the first half of the 20th century. He is capable of great subtlety, but he does not give short shrift to the pure melodic pleasures and the popular and jazz influences that are integral to the tradition. This Poulenc album is a delight, and it might be the only one you need for Poulenc's music for piano and ensemble. The Piano Concerto of 1949 is not one of Poulenc's more famous works, but the performance here by Lortie and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Edward Gardner is masterful, with intricate weaving of piano and orchestra balanced by melodic straightforwardness, including an intriguing quotation of "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" in a kind of Latinized version in the finale. The first movement seems to have a wash of piano sound, emerging seamlessly into melody. The more familiar Concerto for two pianos and orchestra receives a vigorous performance, with Hélène Mercier on the second piano extremely well-coordinated with Lortie, and there are several crystalline smaller pieces including Aubade, a neoclassic suite for piano and an ensemble of 18 instruments. Chandos' studio sound here is absolutely superb, and this is destined to be a cornerstone Poulenc release. It's a joy from start to finish. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 11, 2018 | Naxos

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Take note: these are not suites taken from Poulenc's ballets Les Biches and Les Animaux modèles. Les Biches, first performed in 1924 by the Ballets Russes de Paris, is a particularly "facetious" score of Poulenc's, miles from his deeper works; we could even call it light music, in a vein which would later be addressed by Jean Françaix. Of course, "light" doesn't mean "easy" and Poulenc's score teems with imagination, harmonic curiosities, orchestral colours, and references and allusions running from Chopin to Mozart, from Stravinski to music-hall. As in Les Biches, the composer made his own theme for the ballet Les Animaux modèles of 1942, and here is its Suite. It's in the same vein that Poulenc uses a much more ambitious orchestra, but the Parisian tone predominates. Borrowing from La Fontaine, Poulenc makes his animals into human characters, so the grasshopper becomes an old ballerina, the ant an old provincial aunt, the lovelorn lion a pimp, and death an elegant woman, like a masked Duchess. Here too the borrowings and allusions are legion: including to himself but also to Satie, Saint-Saëns and many others, while in Le Lion, he sneaks the line "Vous n’aurez pas l’Alsace et la Lorraine"[You won't have Alsace and Lorraine] into the score, clearly addressed to the occupiers of Paris who had just taken part in the performance of a ballet by Lifar at the Opéra in Paris. The album closes with the 1947 Sinfonietta, quite unique among Poulenc's works: facetious and light, to be sure, but also coloured by potential drama that looms behind each passage. A most welcome programme. © SM/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released March 3, 2020 | Resonus Classics

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This enjoyable Poulenc release from pianist Mark Bebbington, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Jan Latham-Koenig, and a pair of fine wind players qualifies for the rarities category. True, the Concert Champêtre ("Pastoral Concerto") of 1928 is one of the composer's most familiar works, but what's heard here is not the usual version for harpsichord and orchestra, but one for piano and orchestra. This is certainly not beyond the pale; Poulenc himself not only played this version, he even recorded it in 1948 with the New York Philharmonic. Some listeners may miss the harpsichord, which is the work's most distinctive feature, yet Latham-Koenig and Bebbington manage the key Poulenc trick in the slow movement of delivering lyricism, but not sentimentality. The Piano Concerto of 1950 is probably the least often heard of Poulenc's concertante works. Its eclecticism, ranging from "Swanee River" to the "can-can" to the Brazilian maxixe rhythm, was taken as evidence of slapdash construction, though lately, has been sounding pleasingly eclectic, and Bebbington's ability to let the music speak for itself should help the work along. Even rarer are the Trio for piano, oboe, and bassoon and the Oboe Sonata, both of which show a somewhat more experimental version of Poulenc's basic language; oboist John Roberts is especially affecting in the sonata's unusual final "Déploration" slow movement. Enjoyable for anyone, this album is a must for Poulenc fans. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 15, 2004 | Sony Classical

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Duets - Released February 1, 2011 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released November 23, 1994 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released January 1, 1985 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released November 1, 1999 | INA Mémoire vive

Booklet Distinctions Choc du Monde de la Musique - 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released August 1, 2018 | London Philharmonic Orchestra

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Classical - Released January 31, 2020 | Odradek Records

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released September 1, 2002 | Chandos

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 1, 2007 | Chandos

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Classical - Released July 3, 2009 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Diapason d'or - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released April 28, 2011 | Zig-Zag Territoires

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Hi-Res Audio
It may not be apparent from the CD packaging or graphics visible to the online customer, but this is a historically oriented performance of these Poulenc favorites, helmed by Belgian keyboardist and conductor Jos van Immerseel. If you're wondering what that might involve for a composer of the early 20th century, the pianos are the main thing: the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in D minor is played on a pair of Erard pianos from 1896 and 1905. These have a lighter tone than a Steinway grand, and they seem to fit together in the concerto's passagework in a more agile way, at least as executed by Claire Chevallier and van Immerseel himself. The chamber orchestra Anima Eterna Brugge also here includes instruments, mostly winds, that are subtly different from their modern versions. The result is a set of transparent but rhythmically rather plain performances that certainly stand out from the common run of Poulenc recordings. Perhaps the modern instruments are missed most in the two-piano concerto, where the music seems to lack rhythmic energy. The highlight may be the comparatively uncommon Suite française of 1935, an extreme manifestation of the neo-Renaissance trend in inter-war French music. The piece has a certain Renaissance faire quality, but it's executed with flair here, and the slightly antique instruments emphasize its exotic quality. Also appealing is the Concert champêtre for harpsichord and orchestra. Curiously, van Immerseel chooses to give soloist Katerina Chroboková a copy of an 18th-century French harpsichord rather than the modern Pleyel harpsichord for which the work was expressly composed and which was played by its champion, Wanda Landowska. His reasoning on this, spelled out in the booklet, is not entirely convincing, but the musical results work well simply because one of the key sources of the work's charm, the unlikely balances between the harpsichord and the large, brass-heavy orchestra, comes through effectively here. With excellent acoustics, this is a recording that is well worth hearing for Poulenc fans and will stir conversation among them. © TiVo
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Opera - Released February 7, 2012 | Oehms Classics

Booklet
Bertrand de Billy's live 2011 performance of Dialogues des Carmélites at Theater an der Wien is notable for the vigor of his conducting and his dramatic highlighting of the score's contrasts, which have rarely sounded so stark and tension-filled. He doesn't stint on conveying the music's generous lushness, in scenes such as the first, which is characterized by the composer's typically suave Gallic urbanity in its depiction of Blanche's aristocratic family. What comes as a revelation, though, are the outbursts of Stravinskian ruggedness in the orchestration and harmonies that de Billy does nothing to soften, which are especially evident in the orchestral interludes between scenes. His rhythmic control is crisp and precise, and points up the score's evocations of Baroque French opera, but he also gives the music plenty of room to breathe. The ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien delivers the drama of de Billy's vision with urgency and plays the more lyrical sections with limpid, sumptuous tone. The vocal casting is not consistently persuasive. Sally Matthews' voice is large and her vibrato is more pronounced than that of the rest of the cast, making her Blanche a far-from-typical characterization. The fact that her voice is so powerful in relation to the voices of the other singers makes for an imbalance that's at odds with the premise that Blanche is the opera's most timorous and tentative character. In a more vocally distinguished ensemble she could be highly effective because her characterization is intensely personal and deeply felt. Here, though, the other singers simply pale in comparison. The roles of the other nuns are sung without much distinctiveness, except for Hendrickje van Kerckhove's warm, luminous Sister Constance. Yann Beuron is strong and sympathetic as Blanche's brother, Le Chevalier de la Force. The sound is generally full, detailed, and clean, but the theatrical realism of the live performance doesn't compensate for the variability of balance and volume as the singers move around the stage. The excellent orchestral playing and fine choral singing by the Arnold Schoenberg Chor, and especially de Billy's assured, insightful conducting make this a recording that anyone who loves the opera will want to hear, but it would not make the best introduction for newcomers. © TiVo
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Solo Piano - Released October 15, 1996 | Arion

Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Chamber Music - Released September 20, 2010 | Indésens

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The wind music of Francis Poulenc forms the backbone of the most beloved wind chamber music repertoire of the 20th century. Hindemith was more prolific in the genre, but Poulenc takes top honors because his wind music is simply so much more fun to play and listen to. Several of the pieces, the Sextuor for piano and winds, the Sonata for flute and piano, and Elégie for horn and piano, are undisputed masterpieces of the 20th century chamber repertoire, but all the works recorded here are a delight, with the substance and style to make them of interest to music lovers beyond simply fans of wind music. Poulenc wrote his wind pieces mostly in two creative bursts, one early in his career and one late, with the exception of two from smack in the middle, the Sextuor, which was given its final form in 1939, and the very brief 1942 flute solo, Un joeur de flûte berce les ruines, discovered in 1997 and recorded here for the first time. The early works tends to be influenced by neo-classicism, with a Scarlattian conciseness and clarity, but the imprint of Poulenc's astonishing, quirky wit is everywhere evident. The later pieces, composed after his embrace of Roman Catholicism and after the horrors of the Second World War, while retaining all the inventiveness and cleverness of the earlier works, have an additional mellow subtlety, a taste of melancholy, and a profundity similar to that heard in Les Dialogues des Carmélites, which Poulenc had written just before these wind solos. The players are the soloists of the Orchestre de Paris, and it's evident from their knowing performances that they have the composer's Gallic sensibility in their blood. This is particularly evident in the Sextuor; many performers luxuriate in the lush Romanticism of the first movement's second theme, but these players maintain just a touch of ironic detachment, and it feels exactly right. Besides being spirited, the performances are technically impeccable. The instrumentalists are accompanied by pianists Claire Désert and Emmanuel Strosser, who share their fine feeling for the composer's idiosyncrasies. The sound is generally clean, bright, and nicely balanced, except that the players in the Sonata for horn, trumpet, and trombone sound somewhat distant. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 27, 2013 | harmonia mundi

Booklet