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David Hurwitz

"This excellent first volume in what promises to be a two-disc collection of Poulenc's complete chamber music offers performances that compare favorably with the best available. All of the musicians are superb, but several deserve special mention. Alexandre Tharaud plays Poulenc's piano parts with great flair, wit, and a true feeling for the music's manic shifts from raucous high spirits to nostalgia and melancholy. Since all of these works feature the piano, the importance of his contribution can't be overestimated. Laurent Lefèvre's reedy, piercing, truly "French" sounding bassoon is a highlight both of the Sextet and the delicious Trio for piano, oboe, and bassoon. It's very difficult to find a bassoon player with sufficient dynamic range to balance the more penetrating tones of the other players, and Lefèvre not only holds his own in the ensemble, but his unfailing musicality and dead accurate intonation triumphantly vindicates the affection that Poulenc shows for his instrument. Finally Olivier Doise's oboe playing offers a sweet, focused tone throughout his range, and this makes the Oboe Sonata a much more moving and less squeaky affair than it so easily becomes in less sympathetic hands. If the string players in Volume II offer the same level of accomplishment, then this series will be the outstanding bargain of Poulenc's centenary year. As it stands, this initial installment, brightly and clearly recorded, is indispensable. Look for further volumes to be released throughout 2000, beginning in early spring."

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