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Romantic Music for Piano Four-Hands
George ONSLOW (1784-1853)
Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 7 (1815) [19:13]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
from Six Burlesques, Op. 58 (1901):
No. 4 Schnell und grotesk [2:26]
No. 5 Äusserst schnell und flüchtig [2:38]
No. 6 So lebhaft und übermütig als nur möglich [1:28]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Polonaise in D major (1831/2) [4:27]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Grand Valse di Bravura, Op. 6, RV209 (1836) [7:21]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
from Norwegian Dances, Op. 35 (1880)
No. 2 Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso [2:05]
No. 3 Allegro moderato alla Marcia [2:08]
Mily BALAKIREV (1837–1910)
Suite for Piano Four-Hands (1908) [13:21]
George ONSLOW (1784-1853)
Sonata No.2 in F minor, Op. 22 (1823) [22:06]
Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey (piano duet)
rec. November 1978 (Onslow Sonata No. 1, Liszt, Wagner, Balakirev)
and March 1985 (Reger, Grieg, Onslow Sonata No. 2) at North Park University, Chicago. ADD


Experience Classicsonline

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.

Following 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.

Up 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 unknown. 

Commencing 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 lets up.

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 and rumbustious.

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. 

The 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 four hands.

Michael Cookson



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