Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) was the only female member of "Les Six" and the most mysterious of the group (the others of course being Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, George Auric, and Louis Durey). Her compositional style, and this can be said of "Les Six" is general-can be described as cheerful, lighthearted, optimistic and filled with bright harmonies and rhythms. Their sunny musical personalities represented a notable departure from the prevailing misty sonorities of the Impressionistic composers or the heavy Germanic influences of Wagnerian romanticism. Indeed much of the music succeeds in being childlike in it's simplicity while maintaining a French sophistication and insouciance. Tailleferre's "Concerto Grosso for 2 Pianos, Singers, Saxophones and Orchestra" is a lovely but also oddball work (the forces used especially the wordless voices sums it all up I think). Paying stylistic homage to the Baroque, the Concerto is in three movements. The pianos provide the rhythmic drive throughout the work and in certain passages one can detect the neoclassical influences of Stravinsky, a close friend of Tailleferre. The wordless voices are treated like additional instruments of the orchestra. The inclusion of a Persian folksong and the absence of upper strings give the second movement a somewhat sombre quality. Drawing on her prowess in contrapuntal writing, the finale is a fugato which concludes with a dramatic cadenza for unaccompanied voices. I am always hoping to hear many more works by Tailleferre, her legacy includes over 300(!) compositions for orchestra, voice, piano, chamber ensemble, ballet, opera and film. A side note, "Les Six" was a name given to the group by Satie and Cocteau.
Randall Snyder was completely new to me. "Double" for 2 Pianos and Orchestra" has two movements that are diametrically opposed with regard to their compositional style and role of the piano soloists. In movement I, 'Episodes', the pianos generally provide supporting roles to the orchestral ensemble. This movement suggestive of a cliff-hanger serial from the 1930's, continuously evolves a musical narrative with a sequnce of 5 sections . There is a quiet impressionistic mood but things change with a scherzo-like episode building with ever-increasing energy to a frenetic climax, and ultimately the music conjures up the atmosphere of the opening, however with practically no recapitulation at all. In the second movement "Schubertpath", the pianos no longer function as as accompanists, but rather as "competing" soloists. A strict tempo is maintained throughout the movement, which gets it's inspiration from the harmonic and rhythmic framework of Schubert's 1827 choral work "Standchen" (not to be confused with his popular lied of the same title). "Double" was composed for this recording and has a certain Gallic transparency that compliments the other two works on the disc I think. This also is a world premiere.
The wonderful Poulenc "Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra" needs little introduction. (Btw I find Poulenc's chamber music to be some of the finest of the 20th century, anyone agree here??) Jumping ahead to when he was 20 years old, Poulenc's formal training began with Charles Koechlin and and lasted for three years. His creative style (which combines classical clarity with the spirit and sounds of Parisian street life) placed him at the center of the new French musical tastes and made him a natural choice for inclusion, by Cocteau, in "Les Six". Throughout his life, Poulenc's music remained unmistakably unique, even as he venerated many traditional and contemporary composers, including Mozart, Scarlatti, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, and Stravinsky. Poulenc's Concerto has sparkling humor, and kaleidoscopic melodies ranging from tender to to brilliant. One of his masterpieces imo.
Germaine Taileferre "Concerto Grosso for 2 Pianos, Singers, Saxophones, and Orchestra" (17:59)
1) Allegro (7:42)
2) Larghetto (5:37)
3) Allegro Maestoso (4:40)
Randall Snyder (b. 1944) "Double for 2 Pianos and Orchestra" (16:25)
Francis Poulenc "Concerto in D minor for 2 Pianos and Orchestra" (18:26)
6) Allegro ma non troppo
8) Finale. Allegro molto