Ensemble 360

Poulenc: Music for Piano and Wind

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In his notes accompanying this recording, pianist Tim Horton of Ensemble 360 implies that the music of Poulenc isn't heard as often as it should be because it's underappreciated. Yet the chamber works for piano and winds on this disc by the Ensemble have been recorded dozens of times over, and this is a healthy contender as one of the better ones available. Clarinetist Matthew Hunt and oboist Adrian Wilson perform their respective sonatas with sensitivity. Hunt in particular has a warm, smooth tone, and knows how to adroitly change articulation to match mood of the music without losing that smoothness. The energy the musicians bring to the outer movements of the Trio for oboe, bassoon, and piano is exciting, especially in the Presto parts of the first one, where there is a real sense that it could easily all go out of control, but the Ensemble hangs on. While this is generally well recorded, it would be even better if there were a more immediate sound in the bassoon in the Trio, a little fuller dimension to the way the instruments' timbres blend. To some extent, the same is true in the Flute Sonata and the Sextet, where a bit more depth and distinction between the musical lines would enhance the Ensemble's skillful phrasing and coloring with more aural subtlety. Regardless, Poulenc's music has found sympathetic spirits in the members of Ensemble 360.

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