Les Petits Nerveux / Hexagon
The ensemble Hexagon (Susan Rotholz, flute; Alan Kay, clarinet; Matt Dine, oboe; Chris Komer, French horn; Michael Finn, bassoon; and James Winn, piano) begins its French odyssey in a most unusual way. Are these six players eating dessert before dinner by beginning their program with a trifle they often use as an encore, the last movement from Jean Françaix's L'Heure du berger? Well, perhaps: the remainder of the music on this disc is frequently of a much more serious bent, but the ensemble plays with such élan, so elegantly and yet with such a spirit of fun that you can't help but be swept up in the parade. The concluding Saint-Saëns Tarantella is delivered with similar good cheer and a light touch, nicely book-ending the disc.
But what comes between is no less impressive. The raucous opening and closing moments of the Poulenc Sextet echo the mood of the Françaix (and also show off the group's fantastic technical skills), and the players never lose the emotional threads of the middle Divertissement, though they twist and turn through segments that are alternately dreamy and sharp-tongued. Saint-Saëns' Caprice, written while the composer was on tour in Russia for the czarina, is a strange, meandering piece that never quite manages to cohere--but it still offers the players a chance to show off that lovely, creamy tone.
The Poulenc trio features some impressive performances, particularly Finn's extraordinarily crisp delivery in the opening Presto, Dine's gracefully singing tone in the Andante, and Winn's spiky jabs in the concluding Rondo. Albert Roussel's Divertissement flows beautifully, played at a wistful tempo and with seamless lines. The sound is ideally balanced between the players, something of a feat considering how tricky it can be to mike winds. I wish that these powerhouse players had a more expanded repertoire at their disposal; this recording is a real treat.
--Anastasia Tsioulcas, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: BCD9079
Label: Bridge Records
Composer: Albert Roussel, Camille Saint-Saëns, Francis Poulenc, Jean Françaix
Performer: Alan R. Kay, Chris Komer, James Winn, Matt Dine, Michael Finn, Susan Rotholz