André MATHIEU (1929 - 1968)
Piano Concertino No.2, op.13 (1941) [12:52]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906- 1975)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor, op.35 (1933) [24:36]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809 - 1847)
Concerto in D for violin and piano [39:24]
André Lefèvre (piano), David Lefèvre (violin), Paul Archibald (trumpet), London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
rec. 19-20 January 2009, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London. DDD
ANALEKTA AN29283 [77:16]

In 1939, Émile Vuillermoz wrote, “I cannot say that little André Mathieu will become a greater musician than Mozart, but I can say that at his age, Mozart had not created anything comparable to what this miraculous boy performed for us with stunning brio.” A mere two years later, the 12 year old gave the premiere of this 2nd Concertino in Montréal. It’s a very pleasant piece, but there’s nothing here to uphold Vuillermoz’s enthusiasm. It’s a lovely, humorous, Poulencian, piece of whimsy, and there’s absolutely nothing profound about it; even the cadenza at the end of the third movement is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It’s delightful but the cause of Canadian music would have been better served with a new recording of Roger Matton’s Double Piano Concerto - now there’s a fine and worthwhile piece.

The Shostakovich First Concerto is a product of his youthful avant-garde years, before the sanctions brought about by the Pravda article about his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. It’s a playful romp and a laugh a minute. Except that it isn’t in this recording; it’s all rather too staid and dull. The performance never takes off and the feeling of frantic energy is totally missing. I am not sure if this is Lefèvre’s or Bamert’s fault. It’s very well played but there isn’t that feeling of being on the edge, of extreme panic, Keystone Kops chases etc. It’s all too polite and safe - not what Shostakovich intended.

This is followed by what is described, quite emphatically, as a Concerto in D major by Mendelssohn. It is actually the Concerto in D minor; to my knowledge Mendelssohn never wrote a double concerto for these instruments in D major. I have the feeling that, despite all good intentions, this error is redolent of this disk. After a delightfully gossamer opening tutti - very classically strict - Lefèvre enters with a heavy-handed romantic approach which ruins the atmosphere. As the movement progresses the soloists take a full-blooded, romantic, approach to the music while the orchestra is somewhere in the background being restrainedly classical. But, as elsewhere on this disk, I am just not excited, nor interested, by the performances. They are well played but lack charm, and/or excitement. Although the London Mozart Players are superbly disciplined and make a very satisfactory sound, I have come to the conclusion that it’s André Lefèvre who is ultimately to blame for these sometimes shallow and over-ripe performances.

For me there are better, and more satisfying versions, of the Shostakovich and Mendelssohn works. Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich, with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra give a fine account of the Mendelssohn on Deutsche Grammophon (427 3382 4 - coupled with the early Violin Concerto in D minor) and the Shostakovich is available in a wonderful 3 CD set of his concertos, played by Mikhail Rudy with Ole Edvard Antonsen and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Mariss Jansons (EMI Classics 5 09428 2). You’ll find that both these recordings give more faithful interpretations than the disk currently under discussion.

Bob Briggs