“Le Piano Français” = RIVIER: Concerto Brève; CASADESUS: Capriccio Op. 49; WIENER: Concerto No. 1 “Franco Americain;” CASTEREDE: Piano Concerto – Timon Altwegg, p./ Orch. de Ch. de Toulouse/ Gilles Colliard – Guild GMCD 7391, 69:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

“The Romantic Piano Concerto Vol. 60” = DUBOIS: Concerto-capriccioso in c; Piano Concerto No. 2 in f; Suite for piano and strings in f – Cédric Tiberghien, p./ BBC Scottish Sym. Orch./ Andrew Manze – Hyperion CDA7931, 65:24 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This might be a must-purchase for fans of the piano concerto and French music, especially if they prefer off-the-beaten-track music. The album notes go into French music setting itself apart from German-dominated Europe, looking elsewhere for musical models than the Austro-Germanic sonata form. So there were relatively few full-scale symphonies and concertos.  All four of these piano concertos are for piano and small string orchestra and two of them reject the Germanic three-movement structure.

Milhaud was a major figure in French music, and he wrote 11 piano concertos, and with his friend Jean Wiener—whose 1923 concerto is on this disc—loved American jazz and let it influence his work. Its second movement looks forward to Ravel’s Piano Concerto. The concertos of the other three composers all come from within 1952 and ’54. Rivier’s music is within the neoclassical school and influenced by Stravinsky and Prokofiev. The great French pianist Robert Casadesus wrote seven works for piano and orchestra, including some for two and three pianos, as well as seven symphonies. His fame as a concert pianist tended to overshadow his composing work. His Capriccio is a balanced and brilliant work. Its four movements are shared in number by the Concerto of Casterede, a still-living composer. It has a simple melodic cast with a particular Gallic charm, in a rural atmosphere. The second movement is scherzo-like, and the third is the heart of the concerto, with the orchestra playing a major part. The Rondo final movement returns to a neo-classic style and builds toward an urbane conclusion.


Amazing—we’re up to volume 60 in this long-running piano concerto series! Théodore Dubois was a French composer, organist and music teacher who lived until 1924. He wrote many liturgical works and oratorios, as well as music for the ballet and three symphonies. He also wrote two large-scale operas. His main influence was in teaching and theoretical works. Music of the Near-East fascinated him, and his best-known work today is the oratorio The Seven Last Words of Christ.

The first of the three Dubois works here is the earliest, and closest to the Germanic model of the Konzertstück—a single movement with three short linked sections. Its 16 minutes is a virtuoso and attractive piece which still gives pleasure. The Second Piano Concerto has an extended first movement—far longer than the other four. It is full of many themes and motifs. The second movement adagio is in a concise ternary form, followed by the very short scherzo which in its elegance is typically French. The final movement begins with a written-out cadenza in which the soloist quotes all the themes heard earlier in the work.

The Suite for piano and strings was written when Dubois was 80. Its four contrasting movements begin with one in which the strings assume a genuinely symphonic style. The scherzo movement has a sinuous second theme and ends with a humorus touch. The slow movement advances a tend to post-Romanticism and the energetic Finale uses almost Mozartian runs and unison scales. Fidelity, as always with Hyperion, is the best possible with the standard CD.

—John Sunier