. . . and most effective in the scherzo-like music of the second movement of the Piano Concerto, the Fantasie-Ballet, and the Scherzo-Caprice, all composed before 1890, when Pierne was in his mid-to-late twenties. There are different kinds of playfulness at work in these pieces, and the orchestral accompaniment is appropriately relatively light. That said, however, the most impressive single piece on this disc is the "Poeme Symphonique" of 1903. It combines a solemn theme with more lyrical music very effectively, and the development is carried out by both piano and orchestra in expert fashion. The writing for the brass in the second half of the "Poeme" is particularly striking, though one wishes that the rest of the orchestral sound had a comparable warmth and clarity. That it doesn't might be the engineers' fault as much as Pierne's, for the piano is slightly favored in the aural picture, and the orchestra just a bit recessed. Stephen Coombs plays very well and is well caught by the recording, and Ronald Corp's shaping of all the music here is persuasive.
What of the Piano Concerto itself? I've mentioned the effective scherzo second movement (I would call it "cheeky"). The first movement starts with somewhat martial maestoso music, third cousin to the opening of Beethoven's "Emperor," and the lyrical theme that follows is a bit anti-climactic, but as the movement goes on, Pierne works both up into a strong, rather solemn statement that drives to a weighty peroration that seems to owe more to Franck than, say, Saint-Saens. That first movement music is carried into the third and final movement, where it receives further development. All in all, it's not exactly memorable, but for a 23-year-old's first effort, it's more than respectable. Thanks to Hyperion, Corp, and Coombs for resurrecting it!