Louis-Ferdinand HÉROLD (1791-1833)
Piano Concertos: No. 1 in E major (1811) [21:42]; No. 2 in E flat major (1811) [28:08]; No. 3 in A major (1813) [23:36]; No. 4 in E minor (1813) [15:27]
Angéline Pondepeyre (piano)
WDR Rundfunkorchester/Conrad Van Alphen
rec. 30 Aug-3 Sept 2010, Grosser Sendesaal WDR. DDD
TALENT DOM 3811 20-21 [49:50 + 39:03]
Out of the dust rise the four piano concertos by Louis-Ferdinand Hérold. He is better known for his operas – a genre that dictated his abandonment of the piano concerto. As for the operas themselves – while their names are familiar – they too have sunk into a category saved by its overtures. These flourished in the 78 era but now even they are hardly even third line fodder for record companies. You will not see complete discs of Hérold overtures as you would for say Rossini or Weber. Hérold’s latest representation (Zampa) is on a sumptuous Dan Godfrey nostalgia-disc on Dutton CDLX7276. I should not overlook his ballets of which La Fille Mal Gardée and La Somnambule must be mentioned. This is all very much the territory of Bonynge, Lanchbery and Beecham.
The arrival of this disc makes the second volume of the piano concertos within the last twelve months. Mirare and Jean-Frederic Neuburger treated us to a single CD selection. This omitted the first concerto but paraded the latter three in brisker readings: No. 2 [24:51]; No. 3 [20:36]; No. 4 [13:09]. Mirare have the slight edge in terms of a more silky-sounding body of strings. They also used a full-cream concert grand. Pondepeyre plays an unspecified piano that sounds a shade more Broadwood than Steinway. As for the music, aside from an agreeably relaxed approach adopted by the Talent players, it is all very much in the pearly bel canto school of Hummel. Allow also for distinct inflexions from late Mozart and Chopin. It’s on a mission to charm and this it does with confident ease – perhaps ultimately too much ease for its own good. Given the dates it’s no shock to find that the mood and character across all four works is uniformly smiling and unforced. Do not look for tortured emotions here though the Fourth – in two movements like the First Concerto - does have more of the tempest about it. These works are predominantly more fluent classical endearment than battleground of the passions.
Hearing this disc makes one wonder about other reputations: composers whose names are slackly grouped with that of Hérold: Thomas, Méhul, Grétry, Lalo, Chabrier, Lecocq, Auber, Boieldieu and Adam. Some of their overtures can be heard on Decca Eloquence and Chandos not to mention various Beecham collections from Sony and EMI.
The sketchy but still useful notes are in English (not fluent, I am afraid), French and German.
I should just note Mme Pondepeyre’s distinguished roster of enterprising and sensitive recordings of Hahn, Vieuxtemps and Schmitt on Talent Dom 2910 123.
These are ingratiatingly lissom early 19th century piano concertos still indebted to Mozart. Charming and charmingly done.

Rob Barnett
Undemandingly ingratiating 19th century piano concertos. Lissom listening.