I haven’t enjoyed “monk and hooligan” Poulenc’s multifaceted Piano Concerto (1949) as much before. It’s a mishmash piece though: the first movement embraces insouciant tune, then a nod to Mozart followed by a suggestion of primetime TV weepy music, a whole range of things … Brahmsian chords, portentous brass-writing. If structure may not be Monsieur Poulenc’s forte you do get a lot of intriguing ideas, and the remaining movements don’t cease the expression and the fun.
Between them, Mark Bebbington and Jan Latham-Koenig do a brilliant job, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in complete cooperation, and they all go on to star in Concert champêtre (1928), written for harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, and made available to pianists a year later, music that is again restless and ‘cut and paste’ in style, ‘sonatas and interludes’ before John Cage got there. Whether Concert champêtre comes across better with a harpsichord I know not, for – and while stressing the performers here are blameless, giving their all with virtuosity and consideration – the piece to my mind has very little to offer, and that is its one fascination.
Interspersed with these concertante works are Poulenc chamber creations: the Trio for Piano, Oboe & Bassoon, and the Sonata for Oboe & Piano, with John Roberts (oboe, Principal, Royal PO) and bassoonist Jonathan Davies (Principal, London PO). Two of London’s finest, together with Bebbington, make a strong case for these pithy pieces. Resonus RES10256.
Bebbington on Classical Source (selection):