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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Repeated listening, 11 July 2013
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This review is from: Dubois: Romantic Piano Concerto [ Cédric Tiberghien, Andrew Manze] [Hyperion: CDA67931] (Audio CD)
Firstly, a brief explanation of this review's title.
I am one of a group of lovers of Piano concertos, who has been collecting this series from the first issue.
I'm sure I am not alone in realizing there are two groups of CDs in the collection; a majority which one listens to again and again and a (thankfully small!) minority where one listening is usually enough!

I'm glad to say that this new CD, number 60 in the series, is truly in the majority. It arrived only three days ago, yet has already been played several times.

Now to the CD review itself.
It consists of three works for piano and orchestra by the French composer, Théodore Dubois (1837-1924).
He is roughly contemporaneous with his compatriots Saint-Saëns and Pierné, who have featured already in this series (numbers 27 and 34 resp.) The music has certain similarities.

The first work is the Concerto-capriccioso, a kind of Konzertstück. This is a one movement work in three contrasted sections. It opens with a piano solo before the orchestra enters.
It is melodious and the orchestral music accompany the piano beautifully.

The main work is the 2nd piano concerto in F minor.
This is in four movements. The concertos of Saint-Saëns come to mind in passages of this work.
Again the music abounds with melodious writing, delightful interaction between piano and orchestra. The first movement is the most substantial. The virtuosic cadenza marking the opening of the final movement is wonderful.

The last work is called Suite for piano and string orchestra; again in the key of F minor.
This also has four contrasting movements. The work begins slowly and soberly, before the piano develops into more overtly virtuosic writing. It is also most enjoyable.
The music of Pierné and also another French composer, Benjamin Godard, come to mind in this music.

The pianist is Cédric Tiberghien, whose technique in these energetic works is admirable.
He plays with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted my Andrew Manze.
The recorded sound is what we have come to take for granted with this label. Of the highest order with a natural balance between the solo instrument and orchestra.

I have no hesitation in recommending this latest CD in the series; both to those who buy occasionally from it and to those who, like myself, cannot resist every new release!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No masterpieces here but attractive all the same., 30 July 2013
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This review is from: Dubois: Romantic Piano Concerto [ Cédric Tiberghien, Andrew Manze] [Hyperion: CDA67931] (Audio CD)
Theodore Dubois (1837-1924) was a French composer and organist who trained at the Paris Conservatoire. He won the Prix de Rome in 1861 and, on his return from Italy, was appointed Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire. Later he became Professor of Composition and then director until his retirement in 1905. He was also organist at the Madeleine. As a composer Dubois was extremely productive although there are only a few concertante works.

The "Concerto Capriccioso" (Dubois' "First Piano Concerto") was premiered in 1876 by Jeanne Duvinage, the composer's wife. As the notes which come with this disc say, it is very much in the tradition of the German Konzertstuck. You will be reminded of Schumann's examples and much of the piano figuration is also reminiscent of the German master. The concerto is in a single movement and begins with a lengthy recitative-like cadenza. Eventually the orchestra enters with the main idea, a passionate and urgent tune. The subsidiary material is pleasantly lyrical but not really memorable. The central section, beginning at 9 mins 16 secs, may be regarded as a rhapsodic development. New material for the soloist it introduced while the orchestra refers to melodies from earlier on. Eventually, at 11 mins 57 secs mins, the return of the passionate tune signals the beginning of the "recapitulation". Altogether, this concerto, considerably boosted by the quality of its main theme, is an attractive and well sustained work.

The Second Piano Concerto dates from 1898 and is stylistically very different from the first. The influence of Saint-Saens is apparent. The first movement is a sonata structure. Both its main themes are lyrical in character. The second is particularly lovely though more so for the way it is presented than for its intrinsic quality. The elegantly decorative piano writing will immediately remind you of Chopin. Indeed, there is far more poetry here than in the genuine Polish concertos included in the previous issue in this series. Unfortunately, in spite of many attractively lyrical pages, this movement is let down by its ramshackle construction. With frequent tempo changes, it never really gets going. To create a little tension in the development section, Dubois has to rely on the concerto's opening flourish. Saint-Saens' last piano concerto, the "Egyptian", dates from the previous year and, frankly, Dubois cannot compete in terms of melodic or dramatic flair or certainty of construction.

The other movements are more convincing. The slow movement is a simple ternary structure. The opening tempo is sustained throughout and the main theme is lovely if rather plain. The scherzo is very short and immediately attractive. The chattering main idea is contrasted with a more lyrical idea as in the famous scherzo from Saint-Saens' Second concerto. The finale begins with a long cadenza which, rather like the one which opens the Concerto-capriccioso, is recitative-like in character. Many of the themes from the concerto are reintroduced until the orchestra enters with the movement's main idea, one which would obviously make a good subject for a fugato. Eventually Dubois obliges. A syncopated fragment of melody provides the lyrical interest. I enjoyed getting to know this concerto and so will you but don't set your sights too high. It's not Saint-Saens' Sixth!

The "Suite for Piano and Strings" dates from 1917 and was finished on the composer's 80th birthday. Although the notes suggest that the music is neo-Classical pastiche, its movements are only identified by tempo indications and the first three movements at least seemed to me fairly squarely in the Romantic tradition. The Suite is an attractive work though, again, its lyrical ideas tend to be rather short-winded. The heart of this work is very much the slow movement whose lyricism reaches an unforeseen level of eloquence.

I can give this disc a firm recommendation, then, though, to be honest, I was a little disappointed by the Second Concerto. The performances are excellent as is the recording.
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