> Concerto Symphonique Munroe [RB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Concerto Symphonique - Virtuoso Works for Violin and Piano - volume 1
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Rondo in A, K386 (1780s?) [8.21]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Rondo in B flat WoO 6 (1793) [9.32]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Variations on La ci darem la mano from Mozart's Don Giovanni (1829) [16.51]
Zygmunt STOJOWSKI (1869-1946)

Rapsodie Symphonique Op. 23 (1904) [14.26]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Rapsodie d'Auvergne in C Op. 73 (1884) [9.48]
Henry LITOLFF (1818-1891)

Scherzo (II) from Concerto Symphonique No. 4 in D minor Op. 102 (1852) [6.58]
Ian Munro (piano)
Tasmanian SO/David Porcelijn
rec 16-20 March 1998, Ballroom, Government House, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
ABC CLASSICS 465 424-2 [66.29]

I have rated Ian Munro highly ever since coming into contact with his artistry when reviewing the two Tall Poppies CDs of Arthur Benjamin's chamber music. The booklet points out that he has played Rachmaninov 2 and 3 with the Sydney SO, recorded Sculthorpe's Piano Concerto (I hope to have a major series of Sculthorpe reviews from Hubert Culot in the next month or so) and has premiered works by Sculthorpe, Vine, Elena Kats-Chernin, Roger Smalley, Andrew Ford and Gordon Kerry. He was the pianist in the 2001 performance of Hans Werner Henze's Requiem Piano Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony conducted by Markus Stenz.

It is a hallmark of his mould-breaking approach that he would be part of a risk-taking project of this type. Pianists do like their concertos and so do concert audiences. With some notable exceptions a non-concerto piece for piano and orchestra is likely to have a harder task making a place for itself in concert schedules than a piano concerto. The same pattern is seen in works for violin and orchestra. From this point of view the very recent Graffin/Thierry Hyperion CD grouping non-concerto French works for violin and orchestra can be seen as a venture similar to this ABC Classics anthology.

I see no real downside at all to the two Rondos into which Munro, Porcelijn and orchestra pitch with stylish gusto. The piano sounds well if a shade unyielding in tone. The Beethoven in particular is done with a wink and a humorous chuckle. The Chopin glitters and sings - gemlike and fresh. Munro seems to be having fun and the work has the great privilege of Mozart's lissom and pliant theme by which to warm the listener's hands.

The Stojowski Rapsodie is the most recent work. It is highly romantic and lightly textured in the orchestral department as if influenced by Chausson's Poème. It gathers for some symphonic triumphalism at 4.23. If you have been turned on to Stojowski by the recent Hyperion disc (CDA67314) of the two piano concertos then you won't want to be without this imaginative and meaty appendix to that disc.

The Saint-Saens Rapsodie isn't uncommon - at least not on disc. The regional reference in the title is bound to prompt thoughts of Joseph Canteloube's arrangements of the Auvergnat songs. In practice I was not able to identify any in the Saint-Saëns work although at 4.12 a villageoise character is on show. Munro is called on for some real Lisztian prestidigitation and he delivers with interest. Listen to him at 4.44 and at 5.17. This sound is right out of Liszt's First Piano Concerto and Totentanz. The work ends with an outrageous and uproarious glissando. Politically incorrect or what!

Lastly we have Litolff's warhorse which I recall in times of yore being variously despatched by Katin and Cherkassky. Of course since those days Hyperion and Genesis have delivered the complete Concerto Symphonique No. 4! Munro handles the scherzo with what seems like joyous facility. We really must hear more of him. Come on Hyperion how about signing up Munro for your 'Romantic Piano Concerto' series. He would be a natural for Reginald Sacheverell Coke's six piano concertos, Somervell's piano concerto and Normandy Variations and Joseph Holbrooke's Second Piano Concerto Orient and his Symphony No. 8 Dance for piano and orchestra.

The 14 pages of notes are in English only. Good work by David Vivian Russell.

While we are waiting we should encourage Ian Munro and ABC Classics to record Arthur Benjamin's works for piano and orchestra: the Concertino and the Concerto Quasi Una Fantasia. This would go well as a volume complementary to Benjamin's Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra and his two concertos one for each of those two solo instruments. Other meritorious projects for Ian and ABC include Goossens two late Phantasy Concertos. There is one each for piano and orchestra and violin and orchestra. There should be space also for Goossens' Lyric Interlude and the Serenade from the opera Don Juan de Mañara.

And now for volume 2 please ... Volume 1 is an example of a fresh and clever concept imaginatively translated into action.

Rob Barnett



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