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Enterprising Recordings

Music for piano
and orchestra
reviewed by

Kleos    KL5137

Music for piano and orchestra - Joshua Pierce. © 2005 Helicon Records

The conductor Kirk Trevor seems to be associated with an increasing number of very enterprising recordings. In partnership with the New York pianist Joshua Pierce on this disc he directs attractive performances of two brief and well crafted English gems for piano and strings.

Gerald Finzi's plans for a piano concerto in 1928 came to a halt, partly because the first movement, a Grand Fantasia, failed to receive much encouragement from colleagues (Vaughan Williams didn't like it) and a third movement gave him so much trouble that it was eventually abandoned. The slow movement, written the following year, became the posthumous Eclogue, an exquisite evocation of the Gloucestershire countryside he loved [listen -- track 14, 0:00-1:31].

A decade later the young Benjamin Britten began a temporary emigration west at the onset of war, travelling with Peter Pears to New York through Canada, but leaving his other inamorato Wulff, son of the conductor Hermann Scherchen, in Cambridge. Wulff was the subject of Young Apollo, an eight-minute 'fanfare' for piano, string quartet and strings, disguised in the programme notes with quotations from Keats' Hyperion which describes Apollo's beauty, 'golden tresses' and 'limbs Celestial'. Britten gave the first performance in Toronto with the CBC Symphony in August 1939, after which he withdrew the piece, and it was not to be heard again until after his death. A pity, for it is a fascinating balance of direct pianism and inventive string colours -- his Frank Bridge Variations had emerged two years earlier, giving his remarkable imagination great confidence with the strings [listen -- track 1, 2:20-3:42].

Milhaud's Le Carnaval d'Aix is great fun. It is an exuberant reworking for piano and orchestra of music from his ballet Salade, a wonderful concoction for instruments and voices created for Diaghilev in 1924 and based on old Italian pieces and some Sardinian folk music [listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:13].

Joshua Pierce also takes the piano part in the far less boisterous and, after Milhaud, positively dignified suite Le bourgeois gentilhomme by Richard Strauss, colourful and orchestrally well controlled and performed with, among others, a strong trombone player [listen -- track 17, 0:00-1:10].

Copyright © 12 August 2006 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Joshua Pierce - Music for Piano and Orchestra

KL5137 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 69'03" 2005 Helicon Records

Joshua Pierce, piano; Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava (Finzi); Slovak State Chamber Orchestra Zilina (Britten; Milhaud; Strauss); Kirk Trevor, conductor

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): Young Apollo Op 16 for piano and string orchestra (1939); Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): Le Carnaval d'Aix (1926), fantasy for piano and orchestra (Le Corso; Tartaglia; Isabelle; Rosetta; Le bon et le mauvais tuteur; Coviello; Le Capitaine Cartuccia; Polichinelle; Polka; Cinzio; Souvenir de Rio; Final); Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Eclogue Op 10 for piano and string orchestra; Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Orchestral Suite from the incidental music to 'Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme' Op 60 (1920) (Ouverture to Act 1; Minuet; The Fencing Master; Entrance and Dance of the Tailors; Lully's Minuet; Courante; Entrance of Cleonte; Prelude to Act II; The Dinner)



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