Poulenc Piano Concerto. Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3
Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 has a more varied character than is sometimes assumed, and it is a strength of both the interpretations considered here that account is taken of this. There is suberb playing from both soloists throughout, and choice between these two discs may ultimately depend on the couplings. Vladimir Ashkenazy's performance is part of a complete set of Prokofiev's piano concertos which he made for Decca (available separately) and Side 2 of this LP carries the Classical Symphony and Autumn, Op. 8, both conducted by the pianist. Ousset is not balanced quite so forwardly as Ashkenazy, is more a part of the orchestra, and this is important as the work is no mere virtuoso display piece. The Bournemouth Symphony, whose first recording with Rudolf Barshai, their Principal Conductor, this is, stands well beside the LSP under Andre Previn.
Poulenc's sole Piano Concerto is a more insouciant affair than Prokofiev's No 3, being a divertissement in the form of a procession of agreeable melodies, some on the piano and some in the orchestra, dressed in bright colours. Too bright for some tastes, perhaps, for while in Boston for the world premiere in 1950 Poulenc wrote, ''I lead an austere existence in this very Puritan town.'' He also noted that the audience did not like the Concerto's finale: maybe they did not take kindly to the fact that Swanee River in the rhythm of the maxixe (a sort of Brazilian tango). There is less room for significant interpretative latitude here than in the Prokofiev, but Ousset's more overt vigour has an edge over Cristina Ortiz, whose coupling, also on HMV, is Poulenc's Gloria. The cassette sound appears to me outstanding, all the fine qualities of the LP having been very well transferred.'