POULENC Organ Concerto; Concert champêtre; Suite française
Elisabeth Chojnacka gets off to a head start against most others who have recorded the Concert champetre by using the right kind of instrument, like her former teacher Aimee van de Wiele (whose 1960 recording of it I was praising only in January): where they have vainly pitted the small sonority of pseudo-authentic instruments against Poulenc’s absurdly over-large orchestra, she understands that it is much sillier to play newish music on a period instrument than old music on a modern one. The effective proportions secured here between her deft playing and the orchestra also owe much to Jean-Claude Casadesus’s nice sense of judgement and to the work of an excellent recording team. The many changes of pace in the work (which can be troublesome) are adroitly managed, and the ‘Sicilienne’ has a nice relaxed flow.
It was particularly perverse of Poulenc to ask a harpsichord to contend with large brass and percussion sections and then, a decade later, employ only strings and timpani in his concerto for the intrinsically far more powerful organ; and that perversity is underlined here by using the massive organ of Notre Dame, Paris (whose imposing specification is supplied for the satisfaction of organ buffs) – though once again the recording technicians have skilfully succeeded in producing a string sonority that does not suffer beside the organ’s awesome thunders. I can’t help wondering whether Poulenc really had such a giant sound in mind, but it’s undeniably thrilling; and the quieter moments are captured with commendable clarity and calm. From the interpretative point of view, it’s quite a performance. The wind and percussion of the Lille orchestra get a chance to demonstrate their quality in accomplished playing of the spry dances of the Suite francaise. This all adds up to an extremely recommendable and remarkably inexpensive disc … Oh, there’s just one thing. There are separate booklet-notes in English, French and German, and the last of these makes the astonishing claim that Maurice Ravel wrote a harpsichord concerto for Landowska. Yes, that’s what it says. This I really must hear.'