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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Poulenc, Les anges musiciens - Mélodies, Sophie Karthäuser and Eugene Asti

When a group of composers are grouped together in a "school", such as the Viennese School, the Darmstadt School, Les Six, and so on, there are historical reasons for it along with some form of stylistic continuity. Yet there are always differences, some subtle, some not, to distinguish between them. Les Six comprised among others Milhaud, Honegger and Poulenc. A close listen to them reveals distinct musical personalities.

Poulenc has a keen melodic sense that puts him apart somewhat from the others, in that there are distinctive contours to how his melodies spin out within the very French harmonic-modern context.

You can hear his gift in this realm quite readily in his songs. Sophie Karthäuser and Eugene Asti, soprano and piano, give us a vivid sense of his lyrical, horizontal brilliance in the album Poulenc, Les anges musiciens - Mélodies (Harmonia Mundi 902179). We get 37 songs in all, sung and played beautifully.

Ms. Karthäuser has both dramatic impact and lyric beauty; Eugene Asti supplies a poetically astute reading of the piano accompaniment. Altogether this album gives us a full sampling of Poulenc's songwriting, from the flippant and quasi-vernacular to the dramatically declamatory and/or a rarified liquidity.

This is a very well-performed volume of some Poulenc essentials. No Poulenc appreciation is complete without exposure to his achievement in song form. This one gives it to us with consummate artistry. Definitely recommended.

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