Friday, March 31, 2017

Francis Poulenc - Concertos (Maurice Duruflé; Gabriel Tacchino; Georges Prêtre)


Composer: Francis Poulenc

  • (01-06) Concerto for organ, timpani and strings in G minor, FP 93
  • (07) Litanies à la Vierge Noire, for women's chorus & organ, FP 82
  • (08-10) Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, FP 146
  • (11-13) Concert champêtre, for harpsichord & orchestra, FP 49
  • (01-03) Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra in D minor, FP 61
  • (04-11) Aubade, concerto choréographique for piano & 18 instruments, FP 51
  • (12-20) Les biches (The Does), ballet, FP 36

Maurice Duruflé, organ (CD1 1-6)
Henriette Roget, organ (CD1 7)
Gabriel Tacchino, piano (CD1 8-10, CD2 4-11)
Aimée van de Wiele, harpsichord (CD1 11-13)
Jacques Février, piano (CD2 1-3)
Francis Poulenc, piano (CD2 1-3)

Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (CD1 1-6, 8-13; CD2 1-10)
Maîtrise d'enfants de la Radiodiffusion Française (CD 7)
Philharmonia Orchestra (CD2 12-20)
Jacques Jouineau, conductor (CD1 7)
Pierre Dervaux, conductor (CD1 11-13)
Georges Prêtre, conductor (CD1 1-6, 8-10; CD2 1-20)

Date: 1957, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1980
Compilation: 2009
Label: EMI

Clarification: This collection has some duplicates with other Poulenc post. The ballet "Les biches" is the same recording, with newer master. "Concert champêtre" and "Concerto for 2 pianos" are entirely different recordings. These ones are mono and made in 1957 (the other recordings are stereo remade in 1961 by the same soloists, orchestra and conductor)




It’s a wonder we don’t get more recordings of Poulenc’s concertos, but why complain when the three on this disc, dating from 1957 and 1961, are so enjoyable? I long treasured the original LPs, and it’s good to have them back on this well-transferred offering in EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century series. The Concert champêtre is an affectionately mocking look back at the age of Couperin, dressed up as Stravinsky wearing a suit of humor. Written in 1920 for Wanda Landowska, it’s here played by Aimée van de Wiele with appropriately energetic dash. The two-piano concerto finds Poulenc and Jacques Février as the soloists, with the composer no virtuoso but playing adequately enough. The music fascinates: the gamelan-influenced pianos at the end of the first movement anticipate Messiaen’s forays into exotica, the slow movement has a lovely intimacy, and the finale is one of those typical Poulenc cartoon-music romps. Both of these concertos are in monophonic sound (EMI was a laggard in adapting to the age of stereo) but are fully satisfying, solid, and immediate if lacking the last bit of detail, transparency, and soundstage that stereo provides.

The Organ Concerto is in stereo. Something of a demonstration recording at the time of its release, it still sounds good. Much of the work finds Poulenc in his archaic mode, liberally mixed with mystical slow passages, stirring dramatic ones (the opening is a real gut-grabber), inevitable reminiscences of Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony, and Stravinskian rhythmic devices. The fifth of its six sections even recalls the trotting tunes heard at a merry-go-round. As always with Poulenc, an improbable stylistic mixture works to great effect. Maurice Duruflé, who advised Poulenc on the organ registrations and premiered the work, is the fine soloist, and Georges Prêtre’s conducting is a plus, although neither displaces the Zamkochian/Munch recording (RCA) as my favorite.

-- Dan Davis, ClassicsToday
reviewing EMI 62649 - POULENC: Concert champêtre; Concerto for Two Pianos; Organ Concerto / Duruflé, Prêtre


There is great refinement here counterbalanced by an appealing grittiness, and a very French ambience.

These Poulenc Concertos have always seemed to bring out the best in musicians. I cannot think of one recording I have not enjoyed. I suppose the players appreciate their fun and insouciance. I remember being introduced to the wit and enchantment of the Concerto for Two Pianos through the 1962 EMI recording that featured Poulenc himself, together with Jacques Février, as the soloists with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted, as here, by Georges Prêtre (on EMI CZS 7626902 with Les Biches, Les Animaux modèles, and the Concert champêtre). Although the magic of that performance is not quite matched here, these are nevertheless impressive performances that beautifully handle and balance the contrasting worlds of the music hall and the cloisters evident in so much of Poulenc's glittering, sophisticated music. There is great refinement here counterbalanced by an appealing grittiness, and a very French ambience.

Gabriel Tacchino is the starred soloist in all three works. He is joined by Ringeissen in the Concerto for Two Pianos composed in 1932 (this recording was made in Monte Carlo in 1983). They blend together perfectly: Just listen to the exquisite phrasing and dynamics of the "rivulet" piano figures at the end of the first movement, for instance. And Prêtre supplies a beautifully controlled and phrased accompaniment, so that the coy beauty of the Larghetto sounds sublime. The 1966 Paris recording of the Piano Concerto (composed in 1949) is full of joie de vivre, with the haunting Andante beautifully paced and shaped. The Aubade, recorded in 1965, is an interesting bonus. It started life in 1929 as a ballet that spotlit a piano and a female dancer portraying Diana, the goddess of hunting, virginity, and the moon. The ballet concerns her desire for love and her efforts to escape her fate of eternal chastity. This early work has many pre-echoes of material that would later be sublimated in the two piano concertos and other works. Together with the composer's own recording of the Concerto for Two Pianos, these are readings to be cherished.

-- Ian Lace, FANFARE
reviewing EMI 64714 - POULENC: Aubade, Concerto pour piano, Concerto pour 2 pianos / Tacchino, Prêtre


More reviews:


Francis Poulenc (7 January 1899 – 30 January 1963) was a French composer and pianist. He was a member of group Les Six. His compositions include mélodies, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas, ballets, and orchestral concert music. Poulenc had a reputation, particularly in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, and his religious music was often overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works. Poulenc's music is essentially diatonic.


Maurice Duruflé (11 January 1902 – 16 June 1986) was a French composer, organist, and teacher. He was a lifelong friend and an assistant of Louis Vierne at Notre-Dame and titular organist of St-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris. In 1939, he premiered Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto which he had advised on organ part. As a composer, Duruflé was highly critical of his own composition and only published a handful of them. His organ music, tends to be well polished, and is still frequently performed in concerts by organists around the world.


Gabriel Tacchino (born August 4, 1934 in Cannes) is a French classical pianist. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1947 to 1953, where his teachers included Jacques Février and Marguerite Long. He also studied with Francis Poulenc, the only pianist ever to do so; consequently, his interpretation of Poulenc's piano music reveals a special insight into the composer's intentions. His recordings include the complete music for piano by Poulenc on EMI, complete piano concertos by Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev for Vox, and many more for recording labels such as Erato and Pierre Verany.


Georges Prêtre (14 August 1924 – 4 January 2017) was a French orchestral and opera conductor. He studied harmony under Maurice Duruflé and conducting under André Cluytens among others at the Conservatoire de Paris. Prêtre is best known for performances of French music and especially associated with Francis Poulenc. He was also famous for his world premiere recording of Joseph Jongen's Symphonie Concertante with Virgil Fox. Prêtre conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert twice, in 2008 and in 2010, the only French conductor to have been appointed for this role.


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