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Richard ADDINSELL (1904-1977)
Warsaw Concerto (1941) [8.40]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphonic Variations (1886) [15.13]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto (1868) [30.35]
Gabriel Tacchino (piano)
Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte Carlo/Armin Jordan
Recorded in the Salle Garnier, Monte Carlo in May 1978
WARNER APEX 2564 62049-2 [54.28] 

 

 

 

A pair of war-horses surround the perhaps less standard fare of Franck’s variations, until one realises that it’s only a certain generation who would describe Addinsell’s Warsaw concerto that way. Hugely popular it was, during and after the war, but it has dropped out of fashion to a large extent and nowadays is probably heard in the cinema rather than the concert hall. Addinsell was a master of film music and has an extensive list of screen music to his credit such as Goodbye Mr Chips, Blithe Spirit, Scrooge, and Tom Brown’s Schooldays, spanning the war years and beyond from 1939 to 1951. It is,  however, the music for Dangerous Moonlight, a wartime film starring Anton Walbrook as a Polish pianist and airman, for which Addinsell will be remembered. Incidentally Walbrook was himself a good pianist and his hands accurately mimed those of actual pianist Louis Kentner. It appealed to what might be called middlebrow taste with its striking resemblance to Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto also all the rage at the time. At under nine minutes and in one movement only, it is more Rhapsody than Concerto but it fitted conveniently on to a double-sided 78rpm and sold like hot cakes. It’s heavily romantic, technically brilliant and tuneful from start to finish, and generally placed on a level with the Tchaikovsky and Grieg concertos. This was a heyday for British film music. Walton, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Bax were hard at it and successfully so, but Addinsell’s concerto was a unique triumph. It’s still worth hearing, but whether it can be programmed by persuading a pianist to come back after a work of more traditional length and perform it in a concert is a tough ask.

While Franck’s Variations and the Grieg Concerto receive stylish if routine performances at the hands of technically assured Gabriel Tacchino (who recorded all the Saint-Saëns concertos in the 1970s), the tempi of the second and third movements of the Grieg are initially unaccountably sluggish under Armin Jordan. Total time of 54 minutes for the disc may be somewhat mean on the part of Apex, nevertheless the disc is worth buying for Addinsell’s tried and tested war-horse alone.

Christopher Fifield

 

 

 

 

 



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