Pascal Rogé‘s pedigree in French music is formidable, and at no time was he more in vogue than when recording the works of Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Poulenc for Decca from the 1980s onwards. The Poulenc project became the biggest labour of love, his piano music only part of the bargain as Rogé also teamed up with a host of formidable soloists to record the instrumental sonatas and the two-piano music.
Collected together here, they make an irresistible collection, from the brash opening of Les Soirées de Nazelles through to the clipped neo-Baroque purity of the Suite Française. Rogé gives definitive versions of this music at almost every turn, able to throw open the doors in the more exuberant moments of the Improvisations, while giving a sensitive, reserved reading of an old favourite, the Pastourelle. The tricky Theme varié is dispatched with aplomb, while the series of fascinating short pieces on the third disc mark the CD as a rewarding volume to dip into at random.
For the piano works with two players, Jean Philippe Collard takes one side of the stereo picture. This can lead to the odd sonic curiosity, a problem easily dismissed when the music in question has the sheer energy and drive of a piece such as the Sonata for Two Pianos. The ceremonial L’Embarquement pour Cythere cuts a dash, while if you blink you’ll undoubtedly miss the Sonata For Four Hands, a whirl of notes that’s over in a flash.
And so to the much loved chamber works, some of Poulenc’s most endearing and enduring compositions. The sonatas for flute, oboe and clarinet are staples of the repertoire for their respective wind instruments. Patrick Gallois secures a sweet flute tone, Maurice Bourgue comfortably negotiates the athletic lines in the oboe sonata, while Michel Portal effortlessly moves between emotions tender and savage on the clarinet sonata, albeit with a recorded sound that shows a bit of age.
All of which leaves the two sparkling ensemble pieces, winningly played, a moving horn Elegie from André Cazalet and a spiky violin sonata from Chantal Juillet, one of the hidden gems of this collection. It completes a truly excellent package from Decca, a fitting tribute to Pascal Rogé’s championship of this vibrant and entertaining composer.