Robert Casadesus is best known to moderately well-informed
music lovers as a pianist whose performances of most of the Mozart piano
concertos, from No. 17 upwards, were staples of the CBS LP catalogue.
Sony, as the successor in title, have been less inclined to release
them on CD although Sony France last year (2001) issued a bargain box
of some of them.
As a composer Casadesus inclines to lambent uncomplicated
radiance - decidedly Gallic - more Ravel than Debussy. The First Sonata
sings and smiles. If you like the Ravel String Quartet you will like
this. It was dedicated to his teacher, the composer Marie-François
Emmanuel (1862-1938). The Second Sonata, fourteen years onwards, has
jazzy tendencies. Hearing its Allegretto and Allegro molto
movements I would have guessed at a lost sonata by Constant Lambert
- all Marseilles back-streets but lit by a Provençal sun. The
Suite is in six movements and, perhaps inescapably, embraces the gravity
suggested by the medium. It is not specially severe - witness the peppery
intellectual Hoe-Down of the Finale. The Chausson Hommage at
first persuades you that it will be a soulful soliloquy (on the notes
C H A U S S O N - it was written for the Chausson centenary), which
in part it is but soon it throws off these widow's weeds and accelerates
with passion through a tripartite scherzo. It was dedicated to Zino
Francescatti as was the Second Sonata.
The recording project as a whole is dedicated by Gearhart
to Janet Ruth Brady. The leaflet is most beautifully produced. Koch
often do very well in this department; witness the wonderful documentation
for their Franz Waxman orchestral disc with Lawrence Foster.
I must mention that Gearhart and Owings have between
them recorded for Koch three other CDs: Quincy Porter's unpublished
music for violin and piano, a Copland, Still, Cowell and Dello Joio
collection and the piano sonatas of Carter, Barber and Copland.
Casadesus's is approachable music from a Parisian composer
whose muse is of a generally Mediterranean Gallic disposition. The music
is lovingly performed by all concerned with a warming sense of dancing
sunlight on choppy waters.