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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67255/6
Recording details: January 1999
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: November 1999
Total duration: 8 minutes 54 seconds

'An altogether first-class collection of Poulenc's very individual chamber music output played with real sensitivity … .outstanding performances. The whole issue wins my enthusiastic recommendation: it bids fair to become the undisputed yardstick for the future.' (Gramophone)

'A set which will surely and deservedly be popular.' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Thoroughly excellent' (The Observer)

'Entrancing. It's hard to select the choicest treasures from this jewel box of Poulenc's most witty and vivacious, hauntingly melodic and touchingly heartfelt music, especially when it is played with such effervescence and devotion as here. The two masterpieces are the Sextet for Piano and Winds (1932) and the delectable "Mozartian" Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon, played with dashing elan and soulful lyricism by the pianist Ian Brown and the Nash's brilliant wind principals. Richard Watkins's long-breathed account of the moving Elégie in memoriam Dennis Brain (1957) and Paul Watkins's noble-toned playing of the Cello Sonata (1940/48) are exceptional. But there is rapture, elation, zany high spirits in all of this music, dazzlingly played by the Nash Ensemble. Buy, buy, buy!' (The Sunday Times)

'It would be hard to imagine more consistently on-target presentations of Poulenc’s chamber music or more appropriate sound reproduction. Highly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Thirteen pieces lovingly brought to life by the Nash Ensemble. For once, the word 'jewel-box' for the CD container sounds about right.' (BBC CD Review)

'Those who treasure performances of this music should hear this recording to discover the insights which the very best of today's musicians bring to these scores' (Classical Express)

Élégie for horn and piano 'in memory of Dennis Brain'

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Élegie for horn and piano was composed in 1957 in memory of the famous English horn-player, Dennis Brain. It represents the briefest of a dyed-in-the-wool tonal composer’s flirtation with the 12-tone system. Poulenc had met Schoenberg in the days of Les Six and followed his music with avid interest – as he did that of all his contemporaries – without ever being tempted to emulate him. He was fascinated by Schoenberg’s work and could admire it, but it remained totally foreign to his own musical formation and personality. The years following the Second World War saw a recrudescence of 12-tone activity, and ‘serialism’ became the fashionable musical byword. Poulenc remained an observer. The nearest he allowed his own music to approach it was in this Élegie which begins with the clear enunciation of a 12-note theme by the solo horn. A short and strongly accented ‘Agitato molto’ divides it from the piano’s different arrangement of the disjunct 12-note monody and a transposed return of the agitation. This is all preludial. The Elegy proper maintains a gentle accompanimental pulse of quavers in 3/4 time. Above it, the solo horn’s wide-ranging melisma falls into clearly defined phrases without ever suggesting the initial tone-row. After a momentary reminder of the agitation, the Elegy rises with occasional and unexpected harmonic asperity to a climax from which it gradually recedes. The horn’s final utterance is another unrelated 12-tone sequence ending on the leading-note of the C major harmony on which it is cushioned. Poulenc’s Élégie, qualifying him no more a member of the 12-tone school than Rameau, in whose music, too, a 12-note series may be found, remains essentially tonal.

from notes by Felix Aprahamian © 1999

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