I always enjoy hearing unusual repertoire and this exciting disc
certainly fits the bill. The label MSR Classics has compiled
a disc titled Romantic Music for Two
Pianos performed by the partnership of Joshua Pierce and Dorothy Jonas that includes eleven accessible
scores and there are seven composers represented. I love how the
selection mixes established scores in their lesser known arrangements
for two pianos, like Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, with
other scores that I only rarely encounter, such as those from
Britten and Bax.
this recording the splendid partnership of Joshua
Pierce and Dorothy Jonas communicate a close rapport conveying
refreshing performances of exemplary ensemble. The release
benefits from a pleasing sound quality and the booklet notes
are reasonably informative. I did notice that rather carelessly
Rachmaninov’s year of death is inaccurately given as 1941 and
Britten’s Mazurka elegiaca is spelt incorrectly. Recorded
over a nine year period and at different locations I assume
that some of the earlier analogue recordings have been digitally
opening score and the earliest to be composed is Saint-Saëns’s
Danse macabre, Op. 40, written in 1872-74. Originally
conceived as a song to a text from the poet Jean Lahore this
is a thrilling performance of a work that never fails to please.
in the USA in 1940 this two piano version of Rachmaninov’s magnificent
three movement orchestral suite is a great opportunity to hear
the composer’s original intentions prior to his later full orchestration
of the score. The name originally given to the work was the
Fantastic Dances with the movements given the programmatic
titles of Noon, Twilight and Midnight.
with ideas the opening movement Non Allegro is performed
briskly by the impressive duo with a vivacity and drive that
contrasts greatly with the contemplative inner section. At various
points one notices the impression of the composer’s characteristic
tolling of bells. The central movement Andante con moto
(Tempo di valse) has a dark and rather shadowy nocturnal
quality and I love the surprising waltz infused rhythms. I experienced
the final movement Lento assai - Allegro vivace - Lento assai.
Come prima - Allegro vivace as especially remarkable for
its abundant creativity. Threads of the well-known and sinister
Dies irae (Day of wrath) motif from Gregorian
plainchant are suggested throughout the work and the composer
uses other identifiable quotations from his scores.
light-hearted Polka Italienne, a souvenir of Rachmaninov’s
stay in Italy, is given an uplifting performance so immersed
in summer sunshine. Rachmaninov came to despise the intense
popularity of his marvellous Prélude in C sharp minor
which is an early composition from 1892; shortly after his graduation.
The partnership develop the famous score from its heavy and
cumbersome texture to a thrilling and vibrant journey. Rachmaninov’s
delightful Russian Rhapsody is a student composition
from the Moscow Conservatory. Long thought lost this folk-song
infused score is given a terrific performance packed with exhilaration.
in the USA in 1941 Britten’s imaginative and rhythmically sparkling
Mazurka elegiaca was written in memory of the famous
pianist Ignaz Paderewski who in 1919 became the Polish Prime
Minister. The Introduction and Rondo alla burlesca from
1940 is an earlier product of Britten’s stay in the United States.
One is aware of the driving forward momentum that Pierce and
Jonas positively assign to their performance.
Bax composed The Poisoned Fountain in 1928 a
work inspired by the Secret Well of Segais from his beloved
Celtic mythology. This performance from Pierce and Jonas convincingly
evokes an air of mystery and of flowing water from the well.
The attractive score Fêtes is the
central movement from Debussy’s Nocturnes the three movement
orchestral suite from 1899 that was transcribed for two pianos
by Maurice Ravel. The cheery dance-like quality of Fêtes
has a compelling atmosphere of carnival fun and games.
Arthur Benjamin’s celebrated Jamaican Rumba from 1938
eclipses all of his other scores in terms of popularity. Evidently
the jaunty and catchy rhythms of the Jamaican Rumba originated
from folk tunes that Benjamin had heard during a working tour
of the West Indies.
1941 during the Nazi-occupation of Poland, Lutoslawski composed
his Variations on a theme by Paganini. Like several other
composers before him Lutoslawski utilised the last of Paganini’s
24 Caprices for unaccompanied violin, successfully capturing
in this interpretation from Pierce and Jonas the sparkling and
carefree nature of the work.