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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Franz Xaver SCHARWENKA (1850-1924)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 32 (1876) [31.52]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 56 (1881) [40.29]
Laurence Jeanningros (piano)
Czech National SO/Paul Freeman
rec. 26 Mar, 14-15 Sept 1999, ICN Polyart Studio, Prague. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2500 [72.23]

If you count yourself a repertoire explorer you can rewardingly invest some time in Centaur's catalogue. They do not get much of a notice in 'major' newsprint perhaps because they concentrate on rising or neglected talent. It is a pity.

Over the last decade Scharwenka has been recorded to a respectable extent with Collins (gone the way of all flesh) and then Hyperion issuing Seta Tanyel's series. This includes four solo piano recitals, some of the piano concertos and the chamber works. Tanyel recorded the second and third piano concertos for Collins but tragically that particular disc has not been reissued yet. It should be licensed by Hyperion as it would ideally complement their romantic piano concerto recordings of the First and Fourth concertos on two separate discs.

The First of these two concertos combines a barnstorming incendiary tendency with a proclivity for Chopin's soliloquising. It pulls few punches and is unusual for being sparky throughout with two allegros framing a catchy scherzo that occasionally, and momentarily, foxes the heroic Jeanningros. This work was recorded by Earl Wild in the 1960s with Arthur Fiedler and I remember him being invincibly secure if a little driven. I rather like this version which takes time to take in the fragrance of the flowers amid the landslides of notes.

After the half hour First the Second spans a Brahmsian forty minutes. Brahms comes to mind also when hearing the music. The music is less decorative now and clearly grasps for epic substance. That first movement thunders and lightens with the mien of Brahms' First Piano Concerto. It comes across as a much more confident and mature work and could be enjoyed by anyone who has developed a taste for Charles Stanford's Second Piano Concerto (Lyrita or Chandos) or the Parry Concerto (Hyperion). The mid-placed romantic Adagio precedes a cheeky polacca type finale with Slav pride strutting alongside powerhouse swathes of notes.

The technical dimension is handled with warmth rather than great transparency of detail but that is the nature of these grand works.

Good notes by Lynne S Mazza. I see that Centaur and Ms Jeanningros were (as of 1999) to record the other two Scharwenka concertos although as far as I know that has not happened yet.

Rob Barnett



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