Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in a minor, Op. 15 (1882) [26:02]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in d minor, Op. 23 (1885) [27:44] New England Idylls Nos. 8-17 (1901-2)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul Freeman (concertos)
rec. All Saint’s Tooting, London, 1985 (concertos); Kresge
Recital Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, 11 July 2007 (Idylls) ALTO ALC1012 [75:56]
Of the recordings of the MacDowell
concertos out there on the market, this one has been the
most consistently available. Originally recorded for Olympia
in 1985, Amato has re-released the two piano concertos on
the Alto label, along with as many of MacDowell’s later New
England Idylls as will fit on disc, newly recorded for
Throughout the concerto recordings
it is evident why it is still available — Amato’s energetic
playing is undeniable and the performances themselves are
greatly compelling, especially the harrowing beginning solo
of the A minor concerto’s closing movement. The pieces here
have snap and sparkle in the virtuoso passages, but also
great depth and fervour. Listen, for example, to the tenderly
intense opening to the D minor concerto, the low brasses
expertly dying away at the moment Amato attacks the first
chord. Certainly the attack evinces more tenacity than in
the opening of André Watts’s performance where he is clearly
intent on a more lyrical, legato approach.
The New England Idylls are
quite pleasing and pleasantly played, comparable in sound
and recording aesthetic to the early 2000s series of MacDowell
piano music recorded by James
Barbagallo on Naxos. The overall tone of these pieces
is much like Grieg as filtered through Medtner’s less-complicated
pieces; a sense of reminiscence and, often, a sense of doubt.
Again, Amato gives compelling and unsentimentalised performances,
showing a wide span of interpretive ability from the flash
of the concertos’ finales to the Idylls’ To a Wild Rose.
There are several recordings
I am familiar with of the MacDowell concertos: Thomas Tirino’s
performance on Centaur, Seta Tanyel’s with the BBC Scottish
Symphony on Hyperion (see review), Watts’s 2nd with
the Dallas Symphony on Telarc. Having spoken of the wonderful
of the performances here, this re-release is the least sonically
pleasing. Though the concertos appear to have both been recorded
at the same sessions, the piano in the A minor sounds rather
compressed and slightly jangly in comparison with the beefier,
fuller tones of both the Tirino and the highly-recommended
Tanyel recordings. The problem appears to have been solved
for the most part in the recording of the D-minor concerto,
with more sonic immediacy and fuller sound.
Overall, the performances
here are very good, the price is good, and the sound quality
is variable. With now upwards of seven options for hearing
the D-minor concerto, the competition is getting a bit tougher.
The price is certainly right, however, and the performances
definitely stand up to those on higher-priced releases.
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