Romantic Music for Piano Four-Hands = ONSLOW: Sonata No. 1 in e, Op. 7; Sonata No. 2 in f, Op. 22; REGER: 3 Pieces from 6 Burlesques, Op. 58; WAGNER: Polonaise in D; LISZT: Grand Valse di Bravura, Op. 6; GREIG: 2 Pieces from Norwegian Dances, Op. 35; BALAKIREV: Suite – Elizabeth Buccheri, Richard Boldrey, piano – Cedille 7002, 76:26 ***** [Distr. by Naxos]:
This release, culled from previous recordings produced in 1978 and 1985, is a real zinger. In fact, you might find yourself enjoying it far more than you would ever have imagined. Just reading the title made me a little reticent at first; but then when I saw the two sonatas by Georges Onslow (1784-1853) listed my interest lifted by several degrees. For Onslow is to me one of the great and unrecognized secrets of the musical world. These two works which form the heart of this recital are from the composer’s middle years, two of nine which he composed during his lifetime; one wishes there were more. But both of these are in the grand style, perhaps lying somewhere between Mendelssohn and Schumann while exhibiting a classical grace and beautifully constructed sense of form and empathy for the mechanics of two-piano writing.
The odd works of Reger surprised me, as much of his music often does. A burlesque is something that fits the rather disparate personality of this composer, and his radical harmonies and strangely affecting lyrical writing work very well in miniature. Wagner’s early Polonaise is very Weber-like, rousing and not at all predicative of his future work. The Liszt Grand Valse is typical of this composer—no surprises here, and possibly a doomed failure at a “guess the composer” party as everyone is probably going to get it right. The two selections from Grieg’s Norwegian Dances actually gain in clarity in this format, and are given sparkling renditions. Mily Balakirev wrote only one piece for piano duet, and here we have it, a remarkably facile and brilliantly done Suite in three movements, the second major leg of this recital.
After weeks of so much digital listening I must say that the warm and immediately noticeable analog sound of these originals struck me as being just right; while I am not a proponent of “analog is best” – especially as digital has now acquired a friendliness not found in its initial recordings – this one is very fine indeed, a contrast on the same order as film is to videotape. Both Ms. Buccheri and Mr. Boldrey have long time associations in the Chicago area among many others, and their duo has been going strong since the early 1970s. They play with joy and unaffected verve making great proponents of this music, and many thanks are due to Cedille for bringing this out once again, easily one of the most enjoyable discs I have encountered all year!
— Steven Ritter