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Double Trouble: Works for Piano Four Hands
Julius RÖNTGEN (1855-1932)
Walzer für das Pianoforte zu 4 Händen [14:44]
Amanda MAIER-RÖNTGEN (1853-1894)
Nach-Mittag's Potpourri [5:42]
Jacob Adolf HÄGG (1850-1928)
Theme & Variations, Op. 30 [6:45]
Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879)
Hochzeitsmusik, Op. 45 [15:12]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Pièce en forme d'aria et de bergerie [4:32]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
6 Pièces romantiques, Op. 55 [13:43]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Cortège burlesque [4:51]
David Huang, Bengt Forsberg (piano)
rec. 2018, Kulturhuset, Ytterjärna, Sweden
Premiere recordings except for the Hahn and the Chabrier

It is difficult to make any comparison with this charming disc in that apart from the Reynaldo Hahn and the Emmanuel Chabrier pieces, none of the works featured on this disc have been recorded before, which is difficult to believe even after the first listen. In truth, I do think that this disc is essentially a reflection of dB Productions’s ongoing championing of the music of Julius Röntgen and Amanda Maier-Röntgen, especially as these are the first two featured composers. When it comes to Jacob Adolf Hägg and Adolf Jensen, this is my introduction to their music.

Julius Röntgen composed his Walzer für das Pianoforte zu 4 Händen in the May of 1884, with the booklet notes suggesting that they might have been inspired by a visit from his friend Edvard Grieg at Christmas 1883, as he had completed his two Walzen-Capricen for piano four-hands earlier that year; whether or not that is the case, this piece shows a great deal of skill and style in its composition, with the various waltz themes coming across very well.

Four years earlier in the Röntgen household, the newly married Amanda Maier-Röntgen composed her Nach-Mittag's Potpourri, or Afternoon Potpourri, which was first performed at the couple’s first Christmas party in their new home in Amsterdam. This short work begins briskly before moving into a more moderate waltz-like rhythm before the original theme returns for an extended central section. The waltz theme then returns for a short period before giving way to a third theme, which itself is peppered with short phrases from the original theme, which then finally returns in full and rushes headlong to the piece’s conclusion wonderfully.

The music of the Swedish composer Jacob Adolf Hägg, a student of Niels Gade, is represented by the Theme and Variations, Op. 30, which seems to be the composer’s own arrangement of a piece that originally began life not for piano, but for string quartet, which seems to have been inspired by Schubert. The work opens with a lovely slow presentation of the theme, which is followed by a set of four variations, the first two of which are quite dramatic in nature.

The German composer Adolf Jensen wrote his Hochzeitsmusik, Op. 45 as a wedding gift for friends. The suite of four pieces opens with a march-like piece; this is followed by a tender bridal song which leads into a gay round dance, before the suite ends with a lovely lilting nocturne. Bengt Forsberg, in his booklet notes, points to this music being akin to early Richard Strauss, and you can certainly see where he is coming from in this statement.

The other suite of pieces comes from Cécile Chaminade, with her typically French Six Pièces romantiques, Op. 55. These charming pieces display Chaminade’s ease in writing in the exotic style, as in the ‘Idylle arabe; and the ‘Danse hindoue’, as well in the French baroque style of dance suite as can be seen in her inclusion of the ‘Rigaudon’ and ‘La chaise à porteurs’. But it is in her depiction of Spring and Autumn that Chaminade really shines.

Where the other two French composers, Reynaldo Hahn and Emmanuel Chabrier are concerned, their music for two pianos has up to now passed me by. I must say that out of the two I prefer Hahn’s Pièce en forme d’aria et de bergerie, with its more lyrical nature, to the Cortège burlesque of Chabrier, which as the name suggests has a more boisterous nature and would not be out of place in the Folies Bergère.

This is an excellent disc, one in which the lyrical nature of these pieces, many of which are obscure, is wonderfully presented by Bengt Forsberg and David Huang who represent two generations of Swedish pianists. Their performance is all you could wish for in a recording, sensitive in the pieces that call for a more sustained lyricism, and yet bold and with a sense of fun in the likes of the Chabrier. They possess a great sense of togetherness and understanding in their performance and I for one hope that they go on to record together more often. The recorded sound is bright and detailed, whilst the brief introductions to each of the composers by Bengt Forsberg are informative. An interesting and delightful recording which will complement any collection of romantic piano music.

Stuart Sillitoe

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