James Conlon

Poulenc: Concerto for 2 Pianos; Piano Concerto; Aubade

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Let's raise a glass of Chateaux-Neuf-du-Pape to Erato, once one of the great French classical labels that exists only in reissues. In its prime, Erato had many of the finest French performers, from Monique Haas to Pierre Boulez, on its roster. At its peak in the digital era, it had even signed the Argentinean Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony. But Erato dwindled in the implosion of classical labels in the late '90s, and one has to scrutinize this particular recording to see the tiny word Erato appear in the fine print. Too bad: the greatest advantage this recording of Poulenc's distinctly French works for piano and orchestra has over nearly every other recording of the same repertoire is that François-René Duchable is a French pianist to his fingertips. He has a light but deep touch, a strong but colorful tone, and a virtuoso technique and his approach to Poulenc's music is natural but intellectual, intuitive but objective. He understands that Poulenc's ironically romantic music is totally sincere, that his oddly sentimental melodies, his mordant harmonies, his brusquely neo-Classical forms are entirely in earnest and that to even so much as inflect an accent incorrectly is to give the whole game away. Accompanied by the sympathetic American conductor James Conlon leading the committed Rotterdam Philharmonic, Duchable is a powerful advocate for Poulenc's Piano Concerto and Aubade as significant twentieth century contributions to the form. Dueting with the bravura French pianist Jean-Philippe Collard, he is equally persuasive in the Two Piano Concerto. For anyone who loves twentieth century French music in general or great twentieth century classical labels in particular, this reissue of Erato's 1986 release will be gratefully welcomed.

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