Poulenc: Les Animeaux Modeles, Etc / Bollani, Et Al
Poulenc's third and final ballet, Les animaux modeles, was begun, he wrote, "in the darkest days of the summer of 1940, and one way or another I wanted to find a reason for hope in the future of my country". The fables of La Fontaine provided him with the plot and it was first performed on August 8, 1942, in occupied Paris (in the penultimate section, "Les deux coqs", Poulenc mischievously quotes the song "Non, non, vous n'aurez pas notre Alsace-Lorraine" for an audience made up mainly of German officials).
Why we don't hear this delicious score more often is a mystery. Too many good tunes, probably. Its eight movements are quintessential Poulenc with the characteristic melange of harmonic and stylistic influences that make their composer's voice so unmistakable. There is also a good deal of self-plagiarising (spot the quotes from the Organ Concerto and the contemporaneous Babar the Elephant). Only one other recording is currently available, apart from the abbreviated version recorded by Georges Prêtre from 1966. The Turin players match the Parisians every step of the way with their incision, sure-footedness and sheer panache.
Stefano Bollini, whose career has been mainly in jazz, makes a good fist of the Concerto champetre (commissioned by the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, of course, but sanctioned by the composer to be played on the piano as well), rounding off the disc with his own "elaborations" of two of Poulenc's late Improvisations, No 13 from 1958 and No 15 ("Hommage a Edith Piaf"), from 1959, the last of the cycle.
-- Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone [12/2007]
Catalog Number: AV2135
Composer: Francis Poulenc
Conductor: Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble: Filarmonica '900
Performer: Stefano Bollani