Anima Eterna Brugge – Poulenc: Concerto pour deux pianos et orchestre, Concert Champetre & Suite Francaise (2011) [TheClassicalShop FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Anima Eterna Brugge, Jos van Immerseel – Francis Poulenc:
Concerto pour deux pianos et orchestre, Concert Champêtre & Suite Française (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 58:22 minutes | 514 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: | Digital booklet

After exploring the universe of Ravel, Anima Eterna continues its voyage of discovery through twentieth-century French music with Francis Poulenc. In Jos van Immerseel’s view, this composer is one of the most significant personalities of the twentieth century, coupling immense erudition with surprising spontaneity. Not to mention the fact that Poulenc was also a particularly brilliant pianist.

The works presented in this recording are steeped in the French traditions of the sixteenth century (Suite Française for orchestra after Claude Gervaise) and the eighteenth (Concert champêtre for harpsichord (or piano) and orchestra). In the Concerto for two pianos, Poulenc breaks totally with the traditional concerto genre, liberating the form and the thematic development. Above all, the piece expresses the sheer pleasure of playing.

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.

01 – Concerto pour 2 pianos et orchestre en Ré Mineur – I Allegro ma non troppo
02 – Concerto pour 2 pianos et orchestre en Ré Mineur – II Larghetto
03 – Concerto pour 2 pianos et orchestre en Ré Mineur – III Finale: Allegro molto
04 – Suite française – I Bransle de Bourgogne
05 – Suite française – II Pavane
06 – Suite française – III Petite marche militaire
07 – Suite française – IV Complainte
08 – Suite française – V Bransle de Champagne
09 – Suite française – VI Sicilienne
10 – Suite française – VII Carillon
11 – Concert Champêtre – I Allegro molto
12 – Concert Champêtre – II Andante
13 – Concert Champêtre – III Finale: Presto

Claire Chevallier – piano (1-3)
Katerina Chroboková – piano (4-13)
Jos van Immerseel – clavecin
Anima Eterna Brugge, conducted by Jos van Immerseel