One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Piano Concerto, S.146 (1949) [20:00]
Aubade, S.51 (1929) [19:31]
Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra, S.61 (1932) [19:06]
Sonata for Piano Four Hands (à mademoiselle Simone Tilliard), S.8 (1918, rev. 1939) [5:57]
Elégie for two pianos, S.175 (1959) [5:20]
L'Embarquement pour Cythère, for two pianos, S.150 (1951) [2:02]
Louis Lortie (piano)
with Hélène Mercier (piano)
BBC Philharmonic/Edward Gardner
rec. 27-30 April 2015, MediaCityUK, Salford, UK
CHANDOS CHAN10875 [72:44]

We’re not into brief reviews on this site, but the temptation with this release is to announce that it literally has everything going for it, and leave it at that. This programme has some of Poulenc’s most enjoyable music, performed in the safe and sensitive hands of Louis Lortie and with the excellent Edward Gardner at the helm of one of the UK’s finest orchestras.

The Piano Concerto is, despite its light ‘souvenir of Paris’ character, one of Poulenc’s mature masterpieces. The orchestration is meaty and full of variety, and with a few hints of the drama of the Organ Concerto that preceded it this work has a richness of harmony that would keep anyone going on a desert island. The piano part is brilliant but often secondary to the orchestra – integrating in terms of texture and musical material in a way which has the feel of a concerto grosso, making it more of an orchestral leader than your classic barnstorming soloist. Poulenc’s slow movements are often gorgeous and this is one of his best, introducing tragedy to an otherwise tranquil picture in a manner most moving. The energetic final movement is four minutes of sheer fun.

Lortie writes of the Aubade that it is “a truly neglected masterpiece showcasing among other things the inimitable melancholy of the French circus world, with a soupçon of Stravinsky. Subtitled Concerto choréographique, the work is descriptive of the mythological huntress Diana in a state of unrequited love. Poulenc was himself in a state of depression as he wrote the work, but there are no shortage of characteristically fun features to contrast with the tenderness of its most affecting moments, including the Mozartean beauty of the penultimate Andante.

The Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra has long been a favourite of mine and it is given a terrific performance here, with Louis Lortie joined by the equally excellent Hélène Mercier. Striking detail in the orchestral recording lifts this recording into top drawer status, as if it needed it with such excellent musicianship on show. Forensic clarity is no hindrance to the moods that need to be conveyed from this score, from cheesy cinematic corners to the most deadly of quasi-silences. The Balinese effects that close the first movement are truly magical, the orchestral entries every bit as subtle as the playing of the pianists. Roger Nichols’ booklet notes sum up the last movement perfectly as “a riot of tunefulness, prodigal almost to a fault”.

After being treated to these three wonderful orchestral works we have the added gift of the intense Sonata for piano duet played with terrific zing and magnificently poetic depth by Lortie/Mercier. The restrained and beautiful Élégie was written as a memorial to Poulenc’s friend and trusted musical adviser Marie-Blanche de Polignac. L’Embarquement pour Cythère is a nostalgic look back to “the banks of the Marne, dear to my childhood”, and recalling the jolly sound of accordions. These last two works for two pianos are more subject to a bath of resonance than elsewhere in this recording but are still glorious.

This Chandos recording is admirably balanced, and this is one case in which I have no criticism of the presence of the piano/s against the orchestra. Competition for works such as the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra can be found with the likes of Mona and Rica Bard on a recent Capriccio disc (review), and my long-term reference on BIS-CD-593 with Love Derwinger and Roland Pöntinen which also has the wonderful Sonata for Two Pianos. With their different couplings neither of these recordings are about to be ditched, but if I had to take away just one Poulenc programme then CHAN 10875 would be my current first choice.

Dominy Clements


We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger