Poulenc: Concerto

Hansjörg Albrecht / Duo Tal & Groethuysen / Peter Kofler / Babette Haag

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Poulenc: Concerto Review

by James Manheim

It seems odd that anyone would have thought of doing what German organist and conductor Hansjörg Albrecht does on this album on the Oehms label and that Oehms would indicate only in small print what the buyer is getting. It seems odder still that it actually works, and that a German group known for performances of Baroque music should be able to shift gears and convincingly perform Poulenc. Nevertheless, the album is a pleasure from start to finish. Only the Concerto in G minor for organ, strings, and timpani is performed in its original version. The Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in D minor and Concert champêtre for harpsichord and orchestra are arranged, apparently by Albrecht himself (he says merely that he plays the orchestral parts on the organ), for organ and percussion in place of the orchestral parts. Poulenc's orchestration touches are lost, but the arrangement artfully replaces them with a whole new set of stylistic issues revolving mostly around whether the organ is going to be able to successfully answer the more florid passages of the two pianos (in the Concerto in D minor, featuring the Israeli-Dutch Tal-Groethuysen Duo) or the harpsichord (in the Concerto champêtre). Of course it does so, and there's a great deal of charm in hearing the organ romp through Poulenc's expressions of high-spirited wit in the outer movements of the first two concertos. Albrecht is helped by superb engineering across the board from Oehms, forging a perfect balance between the disparate forces of harpsichord and organ (a pedal harpsichord from the early 20th century, approximating the instrument of dedicatee Wanda Landowska, is used), reproducing all kinds of unusual effects issuing from the Munich organ Albrecht plays and rendering the unusually sharp percussion playing of Babette Haag. It shouldn't work at all, but it does, so well that it's almost a must for Poulenc fans. Booklet notes are in German, French, and English.

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