Poulenc: Works for piano solo and piano duo

Reviewed on Wed 17 Aug, 2016

Lucille Chung proves a fantastic Poulenc advocate. Her instinctive touch and stylistic sensitivity illuminate the brevity of the 15 Improvisations and 3 Novelettes with rich characterisation.

Poulenc’s talents as pianist and composer combined to create an oeuvre of distinction, within which discrete miniatures feature prominently. Many works remain scandalously under-played, so it is fortunate that Lucille Chung proves a fantastic Poulenc advocate. Her instinctive touch and stylistic sensitivity illuminate the brevity of the 15 Improvisations and 3 Novelettes with rich characterisation. Along the way there are nods to Schubert, Mozart, Piaf, Falla, Stravinsky and Paganini amongst others. Alessio Bax, Chung’s husband, joins her in the remaining works – and the result is a marriage of shared executive excellence in the cheeky Sonata for Four Hands and optimistic L’embarquement pour Cythère. In the composer’s two-piano reduction of the Concerto for Two Pianos Chung and Bax tackle a sizeable work with aplomb, ferociously attacking the outer movements and achieving a delicious romance in the glorious central one. This is a release to savour, even if you have Pascal Rogé’s (Decca) highly regarded collected Poulenc piano works. Demonstration sound quality.
–Evan Dickerson