This disc was sent to me (along with a few other titles from Prospero) by the record label producer, Martin Korn, and it instantly rose to the top of the queue. I love Poulenc chamber music. And if Jean Francaix's music is slightly less well-known, I am warming to it with every encounter. His Trio for flute, cello and piano, which opens this program, is a lovely piece, brought magnificently to life in this performance of it. The wonderful Divertimento for flute and piano, which comes later, is even finer. In between these, comes two short pieces for cello and piano, and Poulenc's Flute Sonata. The programs concludes with Poulenc's Cello Sonata.
Most of this music should be fairly well known to most, and I can be brief regarding the performances here. They are gloriously done, both in performance and recorded sound. But two factors are worth noting in more detail.
First is the absolutely wonderful playing of flutist Sarah Rumer. She is the principal flutist of the Suisse Romande Orchestra. This is my first encounter with her and she instantly won me over. As a flutist (well, former flutist), I am often critical of recorded flute music. But not so here. I have nothing but the highest praise. It's not just her stylistically musical interpretations, it's also her sound, and, especially, her articulation. (And that's not just a flippant remark. I always found articulation to be somewhat of a challenge, depending on the music.) Ms. Rumer possess a radiant, glowing, perfectly focused, round, positively golden sound. No, not like Galway's (as I typed the word golden, his 1970's album, "Man With the Golden Flute" suddenly came to mind; Bleh!). This sound is uniquely hers - instantly recognizable in the very best way. But it's her articulation which stays with me. It's difficult to describe in words - it's focused and articulate, yet cushioned on air. So it's precise, but never hard. And it's the opposite of mushy, or breathy. At the same time, it's the body of tone behind the articulation which makes it special. There is some seriously good breath support going on here. And I simply cannot stop listening to her playing.
As a matter of fact, I had to force myself to continue on with the Cello Sonata! If I can't come up with as many superlatives for it, I can say without hesitation I enjoyed it as much here as ever before. The playing of cellist Joel Marosi and pianist Ulrich Koella is first-rate in every way - always musical and technically beyond reproach.
The second most notable characteristic of this CD is the recorded sound. It is immediate, without being forward. It is colorful, full-bodied and rich, without being muddy or thick. The acoustic is marvelously captured, clear and focused with the perfect amount of hall ambience, without ever clouding or crowding the musicians. As a matter of fact, it's so realistic, it sounds like the players are literally in the room with me. It's almost spooky in its realism.
I will summarize by saying this. You will rarely hear this level of musicianship or recorded sound from the major labels. It's just that simple. The days of dominance from the likes of Decca, EMI (sadly Warner now, what a joke), DG, and the rest, are long over. In fact, I rarely purchase any new titles on those labels. For quality Classical music, I turn to the small independent labels which still care about it all. It is refreshing to be rid of star-power marketing and instead, see and hear a dedication to what really matters - the music. And excellent recorded sound. This title from Prospero/Martin Korn Music Productions (a coproduction with Radio Television Suisse Espace 2) is a perfect example. The entire production is outstanding in every way: the music, the sound, and the professional, extremely attractive and informative booklet.