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Poulenc: Les Animaux modèles, Sinfonietta - Tovey

Poulenc: Les Animaux modèles, Sinfonietta - Tovey

Chandos  CHSA 5260

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Poulenc: Les Animaux modèles, Sinfonietta, Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel excerpts, Pastorelle

BBC Concert Orchestra
Bramwell Tovey (conductor)

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Review by Graham Williams - December 4, 2022

This is one of the most enchanting discs of Poulenc’s orchestral music that one could wish for. It is also a fitting tribute to the fine musicianship and inimitable style of the conductor Bramwell Tovey who sadly passed away four months after this recording was made (Chandos have dedicated this recording to his memory). The BBC Concert Orchestra are on sparkling form and respond unfailingly to Tovey’s direction with alert and characterful playing throughout this SACD.

The main work here is ‘Les Animaux modèles’ the ballet Poulenc wrote for the Paris Opéra in 1940-42. It received its successful premiere at that venue shortly after the German occupation of the city. It is based on episodes from the fables of La Fontaine that Poulenc greatly admired and he chose six of these for the ballet. They are ‘L’Ours et les deux compagnons’, ‘La Cigale et la fourmi’,’Le Lion amoureux’, ‘L’Homme entre deux âges et ses deux maîtresses’, ‘La Mort et le bûcheron’ and ‘Les Deux Coqs’. As the action takes place on a July day from dawn to midday there is also a prelude (Le Petit Jour) and a postlude (Le Repas de midi). The Chandos liner notes helpfully include the composer’s detailed scenario of the ballet. This is the first and only recording of the complete ballet on SACD as the Georges Prêtre recording listed on this site is just the suite that comprises approximately half of the ballet. Tovey’s reading of this score is notable not only for its refinement but also its bracing verve and wistful charm. For a taster try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvf38kvy67I.

The other substantial work on this disc is Poulenc’s ‘Sinfonietta’ of 1947, an irresistibly melodic work full of the composer’s typical wit and elegance, that is making its second appearance in the last few months on SCAD. Tovey’s affectionate account of the score is more relaxed than that from Sloboniduik on BIS in the first and third movements, but the timings are almost identical for the second and fourth movements. The excellent acoustics of the Watford Colosseum coupled with the splendid Chandos engineering gives the performance warmth, clarity and outstanding tonal verisimilitude.

Sandwiched between the ballet and the Sinfonietta we have three delightful orchestral trifles. Five of the members of ‘Les Six’ contributed to the ballet ‘Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel’ and Poulenc's two brief contributions to this enterprise are ’Discours du général’ and ‘La Baigneuse de Trouville’ while Poulenc’s beguiling mock baroque ‘Pastourelle’ is his single contrbution to ‘L'Éventail de Jeanne’ a collaborative work by ten French composers that notably included Ravel, Ibert, Milhaud and Roussel.

In all respects this release is an absolute winner – 74 minutes of captivating music performed with finesse and recorded in state-of-the-art sound. Who could ask for more?

Copyright © 2022 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (3)
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Comment by Athenaeus - November 9, 2022 (1 of 3)

This morning David Hurwitz posted a very favourable review of this disc on his Youtube channel. You might want to check it out. He certainly makes it sound tempting.

Comment by hiredfox - December 4, 2022 (2 of 3)

Not everyone's first port of call for recommendations. Are any of our resident reviewers planning to have a shot at this one?

Plenty of first SACD outings on the disc so worth a review.

Comment by Athenaeus - December 6, 2022 (3 of 3)

This disc just got a five-star review from the BBC Music Magazine. I don't know if that's a tolerable port of call.