The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS songful, lyrical and movingly bittersweet Cavatina movement from the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Francis Poulenc. | March 16, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you missed the performance a week ago Saturday night by University of Wisconsin-Madison cellist Parry Karp (below left) and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman (below right), who seem perfectly matched in their technical abilities and interpretive viewpoints.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The longtime duo (below top) turned in terrific performances of demanding music by Ludwig van Beethoven (Violin Sonata in G Major, Op 30, No. 3, as arranged by Parry Karp), 24 Preludes for Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich (as arranged by the contemporary Russian composer Lera Auerbach) and the lovely Sonata for Cello and Piano by the 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc (below bottom), which for The Ear centered around a lovely Cavatina slow movement that has that tuneful heartbreak so typical of Poulenc.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

Francis Poulenc

If you missed the performance, you have another chance to hear much of the program, including the difficult to play but lovely to hear Poulenc sonata.

The Karp-Kalman duo will be again perform the Cello Sonata by Poulenc in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art a week from today, on Sunday, March 23. They will perform it for FREE on Wisconsin Public Radio’s weekly program “Sunday Live From the Chazen” that airs live statewide (88.7 FM in the Madison area) most Sundays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Also on the program is a transcription of the song “O Tod, wie bitter bist du,” Op. 121, No. 3, by Johannes Brahms. The second half will be the 24 Preludes for solo piano of Dmitri Shostakovich in the cello-piano arrangement by Russian composer Lera Auerbach.


But whether you hear the Cavatina – a word for a simple song, a genre made famous when used by Beethoven in his late String Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 130 — live or not, YOU MUST HEAR IT. It is sheer beauty that uses the kind of popular and accessible vernacular music from the music hall that characterizes so much of Poulenc’s music.

So here are the French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud, in a recording for the Harmonia Mundi label, as posted in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Use the COMMENT section to let The Ear know what you think, if you like the music and if you know of other works that are similar to it, for they too will probably be must-hear’s.

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  1. What a strange, haunting, beautiful melody. It blew me away!

    Comment by Ann Boyer — March 16, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

  2. Excellent offering – an exquisite piece. I really love Poulenc – often poignant and tender – often antic and jocular. (He can be pretty risque for a Catholic.) HIs orchestral and chamber works have a distinctive and easily recognizable character, his songs are lovely and the conclusion of his wonderful opera, “Dialogues of the Carmelites” offers some of the most powerful and devastating music ever composed.

    Comment by Marius — March 16, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

  3. Well, that was a lovely piece of music. Thank you for sharing the link. It makes us want to hear more. Much more.

    Comment by Mike and Jean — March 16, 2014 @ 11:07 am

    • Hi Mike and Jean,
      So glad you like it too.
      Poulenc is a treasure, though the Group of Six treated him like a clown — and then he ended up outlasting all of them.
      If you like this music, try a YouTube video of his Oboe Sonata. I think you will love that too.
      And most of all, listen to the slow movement of his Concerto for Two Pianos, which I have posted before, with the composer playing one of the parts.
      Modern Mozart is what Poulenc is.

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 16, 2014 @ 11:15 am

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