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Poulenc Les Animaux modeles; Concert champêtre;
Improvisations (Elaborated by Stefano Bollani)

Filarmonica ‘900/Jan Latham-Koenig/Stefano Bollani (piano)

Avie AVI2135

Poulenc's fame has increased since his death, and his songs are in every young singer's repertoire; not easy to always get the right tone, his partner Pierre Bernac is the accepted guide. I treasure a memory of them giving one of Myra Hess's lunchtime concerts together in the National Gallery, shortly after the War - not a lot of voice, but compelling manner.

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) used to be thought of as both frivolous and conversely religiose (the Carmelites opera) in unequal coexistence, but fashions change. This release is intriguing.

I listened first to the Concerto Champetre, composed after hearing the pioneering harpsichordist Wanda Landowska in the first performance of Falla's Master Peter's Puppet Show. In the piano version here (which Poulenc himself used to play) I found it a tired piece, with pastiche Couperin, Rameau and and Handel etc. The excuse given is that Landowska's harpsichord was much louder than today's; true, but no problem for studio recording balancers (the booklet shows a session photo in an empty concert hall !).

The 1940 ballet is quite other; I did not know it and am glad to have made its acquaintance. Fresh and lightly orchestrated, it goes well in this recording, vindicating a claim that it is viable for revival; hear a sample.

I did not take to the one-time jazz pianist, Stefano Bollani, who has "elaborated' two of Poulenc's improvisations... So, yes for the ballet, reservations for the rest.

Peter Grahame Woolf

photo: Julie.Niemeyer@yale.edu