Cedille Records have reissued a disc of Romantic Music for
Piano Four-Hands that first appeared on two separate LPs
from 1978 and 1985. The sound engineers have digitally re-mastered
the reel-to-reel tapes from the original recording sessions
at North Park University, Chicago. The selection of Romantic
works from Reger, Wagner, Liszt, Grieg, Balakirev and two from
Onslow is most imaginative and one that seems unique.
their meeting as students at North Park University in Chicago
piano duettists Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey were
active on the recital platform and in the broadcasting studio
as the Buccheri-Boldrey piano duo in the 1970s and 1980s.
to the end of the 19th century Georges Onslow was held in
the highest esteem. Sometimes nicknamed the “French Beethoven”, he was
particularly admired in Germany, Austria and England where
he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers alongside Mozart,
Haydn and Beethoven. In fact people declared that Onslow was
the only worthy successor to Beethoven.
Soon after his death his music fell into obscurity
and up 1984, the bicentennial of his birth, he remained virtually
the disc is Onslow’s Sonata
No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 7 for piano four-hands, composed
it seems in 1815. The opening movement Allegro espressivo
is carefree and jovial somewhat reminiscent of an overture
to a Rossini opera. Tender and passionate, the Romanza
must surely be a depiction of a torrid love affair. The
Finale: Agitato is high-stepping and exuberant.
Briskly played by Buccheri and Boldrey the pace hardly
Max Reger’s three pieces are taken from his set of Six
Burlesques, Op. 58. Determined and urgent No. 4 Schnell
und grotesk contains a slower central section. There
is light and vivacious playing in the No. 5 Äusserst schnell
und flüchtig with this variegated score having two calmer
sections. In the short final piece No. 6 So lebhaft und
übermütig als nur möglich I found Buccheri and
Boldrey’s interpretation forthright
It may be a surprise to many that Richard Wagner wrote for
the piano at all. Among his handful of piano works some are
now lost or destroyed. The Polonaise in D major is
an early work originally composed for two-hands but he also
made this revision for four-hands. Influenced by the spirit
of the dance one notices the strong dotted rhythms. Reminding
me at times of the quality of a comic opera this is rather
inconsequential and light-hearted stuff. Nevertheless, Buccheri
and Boldrey play with an assured joie de vivre.
Franz Liszt wrote his Grand Valse di Bravura, RV209
in 1836 originally as a solo piano piece. From Liszt’s early
period this is a sparkling salon effort in dance form. Typically
virtuosic and brilliant in style Buccheri and Boldrey’s
interpretation conveys significant appeal. In the coda
the weight and intensity of the playing increases in the rush
to the finishing-line.
Grieg’s set of 4 Norwegian Dances, Op. 35 were especially
written for four-hand piano. Here Grieg was inspired
by Lindeman’s Older and Newer Folk-Dance Music. Seven
years later Grieg recast them for two-hand piano solo. There
is also a popular version for orchestra made by Hans Sitt.
Sadly here Buccheri and Boldrey have only recorded
No. 2 and
No. 3 - both tuneful and memorable.
The influential Russian composer and teacher Mily Balakirev
wrote relatively few scores. His early Islamey an ‘Oriental
Fantasy’ still remains popular. Less known is the Suite
for Piano Four-Hands a late work completed in 1908. Buccheri
and Boldrey are spirited in the
Polonaise, gentle and comforting in the Chansonette
and lively in the appealing Scherzo. I detected
one or two examples of untidy playing in this tricky score
but nothing major to worry about.
The final score Onslow’s Sonata No.2 in F Minor, Op.
22 a companion to the earlier opus 7 score was composed in
1823. The first movement marked Allegro moderato e patetico
is highly virtuosic played with vigour and spirit.
Light and dance-like the Minuetto
(Moderato) contains short episodes of increased
weight and vitality. I found the final movement Largo -
Allegro espressivo sad and affecting. At times the themes
were suggestive of Beethoven sonatas. From 2:29 Buccheri
and Boldrey shift into a brisker
and more energetic gear.
re-mastered sound quality is to a high quality and the booklet
notes provide all the basic information needed. On the front
cover of the booklet the copy of the Turner oil painting Music
Party, East Cowes Castle (c.1835) from the Tate Collection,
London really catches the eye. There is so much to enjoy in
this delightful Cedille reissue of Romantic music for piano