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Trains of Thought
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano (1926) [12.13]
Viet CUONG (b. 1990)
Trains of Thought for oboe, bassoon and piano (2012) [12.18]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Romance from film score to The Gadfly Suite, Op. 97 (arr. Anatoly Trofimov) [3.05]
‘A spin through Moscow’ from the operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki (arr. Trofimov) [2.12]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano (1994) [12.17]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Fantaisie Concertante, from Semiramide (1822/23) (arr. Charles Triebert and Eugène Jancourt) [12.17]
Poulenc Trio
rec. 2016, Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall, University of Maryland, USA
DELOS DE3543 [58.31]

The American chamber group, the Poulenc Trio, as its name suggests, holds the French composer Francis Poulenc in high esteem. In fact, in 2009 it released an album Poulenc Plays Poulenc containing the composer’s Trio which is also included on its new 2018 Delos album Trains of Thought in a new recording of the work. The six works on this album are a collection of works for oboe, bassoon and piano that span nearly two hundred years from Rossini to a recent piece by Viet Cuong.

Parisian-born Poulenc wrote his trio for oboe, bassoon and piano in 1926 at Cannes and dedicated it to the composer Manuel de Falla. This is the best-known work in its original form on the album and is played with an uplifting sense of joie de vivre. The Andante is especially effective and feels carefree and sunny, with a light undertow of refection. Written especially for the Poulenc Trio, Viet Cuong’s Trains of Thought gives this album its name and is a world premiere recording. Californian born Cuong conceived the score as part of a multimedia work combining music and an animated film, which accompanied its première. An undemanding and enjoyable work with much energy and a sense of forward momentum, it’s easy to imagine railway journeys on a steam train through changing landscapes.

I can understand the need to expand the repertoire of works for oboe, bassoon and piano by using arrangements. Played here are Anatoly Trofimov’s arrangements of a pair of Shostakovich works. The celebrated Romance from his film score suite to The Gadfly and ‘A spin (or drive) through Moscow’ from his operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki. Although interesting, I find these arrangements less appealing, especially the ‘Romance’ from The Gadfly with its sumptuous melody which doesn’t work anything like as well as it does when played on solo violin. There is enjoyment to be gained from ‘A spin (or drive) through Moscow’, a madcap romp through colourful scenery. French composer Jean Françaix’s Trio is a late work from 1994 and it I easy to hear the influence of Ravel and Poulenc in the writing. A favourite work of mine, the glorious mainly optimistic writing certainly holds the attention. Worthy of particular note is the performance of the Andante, such a wistful creation, and of and the Finale, which is highly ebullient in character. The oldest piece here is the final track Fantaisie Concertante. It’s an arrangement by Charles Triebert and Eugène Jancourt from Rossini’s melodramma tragico Semiramide from 1822/23. With one attractive melody quickly following another, it soon feels like a saccharine overload.

The qualities and challenges of their double-reed instruments are expertly surmounted by Poulenc Trio. Eminently stylish and alert performances combine with a convincing communication of the character of the works. Recorded at Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall, University of Maryland the players have been captured quite closely with brightness, clarity and attractive tone. A collaborative effort the booklet notes are helpful providing the basic information about the works. At under sixty minutes it’s shame another work wasn’t included.

These are superbly performed works for oboe, bassoon and piano by the talented Poulenc Trio. I’m delighted to have the opportunity of adding this Delos recording to my chamber music collection.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Marc Rochester


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