CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 in f minor & 2 in c minor; Fantaisie in A flat Major – Markus Becker, piano/ BBC National Orch. of Wales/ Thierry Fischer (Romantic Piano Concerto Vol. 55) – Hyperion CDA67817 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Hard to believe the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series is already up to Volume 55! Pianist Becker works in both the classical and jazz worlds, and among his previous CDs for Hyperion is one of Romantic piano concertos by Jadassohn and Draeske. He recorded the first complete edition of all of Max Reger’s piano music. Swiss conduct Fischer’s diverse current connections are with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Nagoya Philharmonic and the Utah Symphony Orchestra. With Hyperion he has recorded music of Honegger, D’Indy, Florent Schmitt and Frank Martin.
Widor’s Toccata from his Organ Symphony No. 5 is one of the most-heard organ pieces, but the rest of his works are fairly neglected today. Born to a family of organ builders, he was an assistant to Saint-Saens at age 24 and later became an organist and composer of great skill – a mainstay of the French Organ School style. These are the first recordings ever of Widor’s two fine piano concertos. The First is a half-hour long work which shows some influence of Schumann but is exemplary for its imaginative orchestration. The Fantasie, which comes in the middle of the disc’s program, is a longer work than the Second Concerto. It sports a lovely melody and a somewhat cyclic structure that may remind one of Franck. The Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1905, gives the orchestra a prominent role again, and has a rich and ardent quality. It runs about ten minutes shorter than the First Concerto. Recorded in a BBC hall in Cardiff last year, the disc sonics are up to the usual Hyperion high standard, though I wish this entire series had been issued on SACD.
French Romantic and Impressionism… Ivan Ilich