WILLEM ANDRIESSEN, piano = Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major; Willem Andriessen: Piano Concerto in D flat major (1908) – Willem Andriessen /Royal Concertgebouw Orch. /Eduard van Beinum / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orch./Bernard Haitink – EPTA

by | Oct 25, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

WILLEM ANDRIESSEN, piano = Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major Op. 58; Willem Andriessen: Piano Concerto in D flat major (1908) – Willem Andriessen, piano / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra /Eduard van Beinum / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra /Bernard Haitink – EPTA ABI-01 [www.abmusic.nl] 66:45 ****:

The Andriessen family has been at the forefront of Dutch music-making for a long time. Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981) was a long-lived composer active for much of the 20th century, and he had three composer children, Juriaan (1925-1996),  and Louis (b.1939). Willem Andriessen (1887-1964) was Hendrik’s brother, and focussed on giving concerts and teaching though he left a small body of compositions, too.

Together with Cor de Groot and Hans Henkemans, Willem Andriessen was one of Holland’s illustrious pianists. He studied piano with Julius Roentgen and Jean-Baptiste de Pauw, and composition with Bernard Zweers and Daniel de Lange.  After graduating in 1906, he held posts at conservatoires in The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam between 1910 and 1953.  As a performer, he excelled in playing works by Beethoven, Schumann, Bach and Mozart, as well as contemporary composers, Bartok, Debussy, Ravel (Gaspard de la Nuit especially) and Reger, and music by Dutch composers such as Pijper’s Piano Concerto. During the occupation of Holland by Nazi Germany, both Hendrik and Willem were held captive in prison, Willem  between July 1942 and February 1943.

The performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto derives from the broadcast of a concert given on 13 March 1958 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under that great Dutch conductor, Eduard van Beinum. Needless to say, the orchestral accompaniment is exemplary, tight, sympathetic and, where it needs to be, powerful.  Andriessen’s command of the keyboard shines through, the introduction successful in its simplicity, fortes never beyond the piano’s bounds, and the slow movement producing beautiful tone. Andriessen plays his own and interesting cadenzas. The sound is good, with just a patch of radio noise.

Willem Andriessen’s Piano Concerto dates from his youth, completed when he was but 21 years old. It is a big bold romantic work with full-blooded outer movements and a lush central Lento con molto espressione, and shows the composer in full command of both compositional skills and the ability to produce a virtuoso piece of musical worth. This is surely a work worth considering for a new recording in, for example, Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series; it’s much in the spirit of European – and even more so, Russian piano concertos – of the turn of the century.

Recorded on 14 October 1957 with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under the young Bernard Haitink, the 70 year old pianist plays the young composer’s work with all the intensity and passion of youth. In this case, the master tapes of the concert were discovered in excellent condition, the mono sound being full-bodied.

Other recordings of Andriessen’s pianism are available – Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 19 recorded live with Willem Mengelberg on October 13, 1940 – difficult to find on CD but can be heard online at AVRO by searching “Willem Andriessen Mozart Mengelberg”. Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a work he premièred in Holland, was recorded in 1951 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Otto Klemperer is available on Music and Arts CD4752.

The CD is presented in a cardboard sleeve with a photograph of a young composer on the front, a photograph of Andriessen and Van Beinum on 25 March 1958 in the booklet, with extensive notes (unfortunately in Dutch only) and essays by among others, Albert Brussee, who has overseen this release. It is available only from the website above and was sponsored by and released to celebrate the silver jubilee of the European Piano Teachers Association, the funds going to their Documentation Centre. All in all, this is a diverting and highly interesting reissue very well worth seeking out.

— Peter Joelson

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