The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A celebration of Franco–Russian music with Parisian connections
Musicians: Augustin Hadelich (violin) Robert Kulek (piano)
Composer: Poulenc, Stravinsky, Debussy, Prokofiev

Despite the rather cheesy title, this is a disc that can’t fail to please lovers of the early 20th-century French and Russian greats. Augustin Hadelich is a fine and fiery advocate for Poulenc’s Sonata, particularly in the beautiful Intermezzo, and Robert Kulek’s limpid pianism underlines the flair of this thoughtful and finely shaped performance. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella music is not the more familiar Samuel Dushkin version of 1932, based on the transcription for cello and piano, but an earlier 1925 version made along with the violinist Paul Kochanski, perhaps slightly showier than the Dushkin. Hadelich and Kulek give a warm, quirky and big-hearted reading, with the Tarantella, in particular, exquisitely light and intricately worked.

Debussy’s lush Sonata is drifting and lovely, Hadelich relishing its bleak yearning and Kulek providing superbly judged support. Hadelich’s supreme virtuosity comes to the fore in the finale, where the stream-of-consciousness scalic passages sing with brittle beauty and transparency. Prokofiev’s Second Sonata is equally fine, and the march in the final movement brims with real joy and passion. Recorded sound feels a little flat, but there’s no denying the strength of the performances, and overall this is a disc to cherish.

Catherine Nelson