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Pierce and Jonas play Rare Works for Two Pianos and Orchestra
Pierre Max DUBOIS (1930-1995) Concerto Italien pour deux pianos et orchestre (1962) (I. Brilliante 5:44; II. Andante 6:38; III. Rondo 5:56) [18.20]
Roy HARRIS (1898-1979) Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1946) (I. Introduction/Toccata 6:36; II. Theme and Variations 10:00; III. Moderately Fast 7:44) [24.20]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) North American Square Dance Suite for two pianos and orchestra (1. Introduction and "Miller's Reel" 1:19; 2. "The Old Plunk" 0:51; 3. "The Bundle of Straw" 1:22; 4. "He Piped So Sweet" 2:41; 5. "Fill the Bowl" 1:42; 6. "Pigeon on the Pier" 0:49 7. "Calder Fair" 1:49; 8. "Salamanca" 1:39) (1950) [12.12]
Joshua Pierce and Dorothy Jonas (duo pianists)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava/Kirk Trevor
rec. 25-26 May 2000 (Harris); 29-30 May 2000 (Benjamin); 30-31 May 2000 (Dubois)
World Premiere Recordings
KLEOS CLASSICS KL-5129 [55:01]


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Dubois was a name new to me. He was born in the Tarn département in France. He studied in Paris with Milhaud. His 1963 Concerto Italien is convulsively active, sparkling, not specially jazzy, a little Stravinskian but not a stranger to romantic inclination (tr.1 2.38), full of gentle sustained melancholy in the andante, brilliant yet transparent in the active chuckling Rondo.

The Roy Harris is also in three movements. Its style is weightily epic yet topped off by brilliant rhetoric. His trademark transitions from dramatic declamation to whispered string gesture and rapid insistent thunderous repartee are much in evidence. The feeling for wide open spaces and something minatory and catastrophic can be heard in the central Theme and Variations but delicacy and gentle musing intervenes to provide the balm (tr.5 3.42). Much is made of antiphonal dialogue, monolithic statement, sparkling decoration and urgency. Those who warm to Harris’s symphonic manner and his matchless way with percussion and brass will not want to miss the outstanding final movement. Perhaps you have been won over by the Naxos CD of symphonies 7 and 9. If so do not miss this. The orchestra and soloists immerse themselves without a tentative moment.

Pierce and Jonas are likely to be well known to many collectors but their names may not be quite as familiar, at least to UK collectors, as those of Victor Vronsky and Vitya Babin. In the 1960s Vronsky and Babin recorded the Vaughan Williams two piano concerto with Boult for EMI. They were the dedicatees of the Benjamin suite which is in eight movements. Pierce was introduced to the Benjamin when studying with Babin at the Cleveland Institute in 1968. This is Benjamin at his lightest, sometimes kitschy and sometimes sentimental (He piped so sweet) as he can be in the gorgeous but stylistically alien oboe concerto arrangements. The airy chatter of Fill the Bowl might almost be for harpsichords. The whirl of the village green, dizzy dances, brimming glasses, a wink and a skip can all be heard in this unpretentious music which stands very distant from Benjamin’s Symphony, Violin Concerto, Ballade and Viola Sonata.

The admirable notes are by Eric Salzman. Vivid recording quality and outstanding playing by the Bratislava orchestra, especially in the Harris, make this a most attractive disc in which the mood chart moves at the lightest from the Benjamin to the Dubois and onwards to the tragic-epic tread of the symphonic Harris.


The disc is rather short on playing time but this is forgivable with such rare repertoire.

Rob Barnett


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