On the surface these look like concertos with a lot of similarities.
They are both lengthy - especially the first - and in the four
movements associated with a symphony. One is a product of the
last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the other of the
composer’s refugee status in Tallahassee, Florida. The same
personality is in evidence, but a lot has changed.
First Concerto imitates the four movement pattern of
the Brahms second piano concerto, although comparisons between
the two composers are frequently overdone. Its slightly mysterious
opening ably utilizes the mysterious capabilities of the D-minor
key. Michael Ludwig is sterling in the opening cadenza and his
backed up by an excellent recording. The inventive development
section that follows is notable as is the woodwind writing.
The second movement is the highlight of the work with a lovely
opening theme that leads to a passionate central section, all
of it imaginatively scored. The third movement gives the orchestra
a chance to show off, although the soloist is not left unoccupied,
in a movement featuring a lot of staccato playing. The last
movement begins with material from the opening of the concerto.
This features some of Ludwig’s best playing. He is also excellent
in the exposition of the new movement’s primary theme, which
is then put through a series of variations. Finally the opening
movement material returns for even more lovely development and
a virtuoso finale.
a long way from Budapest
to Tallahassee and the Second Concerto
is a darker work than the first, in spite of its tonality. It
begins with an affecting cadenza, gentler than the one that
begins the first concerto. This ushers in a beautiful main theme,
but both these sections go through some darker developments,
ending with a somewhat sad recapitulation. The second movement
is the fast one in this concerto. It is in the form of an intermezzo
that can only be described as rollicking alternating with charming.
It provides great opportunities for the violinist. The slow
movement is the crown of the work and of the disc. The stately
and somber opening incorporates material from the first movement
and contains the emotions of a lifetime. This is followed by
a cadenza, but this one a song of isolation, followed by a tortured
ending. The giocoso last movement follows without a break.
I found it a little jarring after the adagio, although fine
concertos have been recorded before but still deserve to be
better known than they are; both can be rated outstanding. In
terms of his performance Michael Ludwig hits all the required
emotional stops as well as showing almost unremitting virtuosity
in two long and very difficult works. JoAnn Falletta follows
him all the way and demonstrates again that she is at home in
any repertoire. She also elicits fine playing from the Royal
better even than their usual high standard. I have heard several
recordings made in the Henry Wood Hall recently and this one
has only confirmed my positive impression of this hall as a
recording venue. Music that it is essential to obtain on whatever
disc you get it.
see also Review
by Kevin Sutton