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The Reding & Piette Legacy

Release Date: 02/03/2004 
Label:  Doremi Records   Catalog #: 7816   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Bohuslav MartinuIgor StravinskyBéla BartókGian-Francesco Malipiero,   ... 
Performer:  Janine RedingHenry Piette
Conductor:  Rafael KubelikCharles MunchEugen JochumLouis Martin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio OrchestraBoston Symphony OrchestraBavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 3 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Janine Reding and her husband Henry Piette both came on the musical scene with impressive pedigrees—Reding’s going back to Liszt via her teacher de Greef, Piette’s going back to Busoni via his teacher Closson. Whatever their individual talents, however, they made their mark as a duo-piano team active for 20 years or so starting in the mid 1940s. But how perceptible and how durable was that mark? That remains open to question. Stéphane Villemin, in his hagiographic notes (he even refers to them as “piano duo apostles”), claims that their participation in the “European premieres” of the Bartók Concerto for Two Pianos made them “household names”—but since the performance he mentions took place four years after Kentner and Kabos Read more introduced the score in London, it’s not clear that we can rely on his view of history. I suspect that Reding and Piette were secondary figures even in the immediate post-war years—and they’re certainly not widely remembered today. They apparently made no studio recordings; and while much of this material (presumably from broadcasts) was available on a pair of Olympia CDs, I’d never heard a note of their playing until I got this set for review.

So how do they hold up? Villemin talks about their “explosive dynamism and contagious alacrity,” and there’s little doubt that they make a splendid impression when the music calls for nervous energy—in the outer movements of the Martin? Concerto, in the buzz of the Goosens miniature, in the chatter of the first movement of the Stravinsky, in the more driving passages of the Bartók and the Malipiero, in the bustle of the Poot Rhapsody. At the same time, the fluent accounts of the Schumann and Debussy make clear their ability to turn a phrase with grace, just as the final pages of the Brahms and the stern climax of the third movement of the Stravinsky reveal their sonorous power. And they certainly have an appetite for offbeat, if not exactly avant-garde, repertoire. Still, they have little sympathy for the pre-Romantics (their W. F. Bach is especially gawky); and for all their energy, their technique sometimes lags slightly behind. Much of the Tansman, for instance, is cluttered; and even in the Stravinsky, there are moments where they seem to be tripping over the music’s rhythmic conflicts. Then, too, when the music has a less clear sense of rhythmic direction, they sometimes tend to ramble—a particular detriment in the rarely heard Malipiero, which, like so many works by this prolific but low-profile composer, tends toward the garrulous. (For a more sympathetic response to this piece, see Paul A. Snook’s comments in [Fanfare]27:6).

As for their color: it seems on the neutral side, although the effect may well be exaggerated by the recording quality. The dates lead one to expect a fair amount of clarity and presence, but the sound in fact ranges from the fair to the barely acceptable (the Boston recording of the Martin?, although dating from 1960, sounds a good 30 years older than that); it can vary widely not only from recital to recital, but also between two pieces from the same concert and within a single work. Even at its best, the sound has the muffled, treble-bereft quality that dulls so many of DOREMI’s offerings. In the end, it’s difficult to get much sense of timbral detail—or, for that matter, much sense of the way Reding and Piette handle balance and articulation.

Recommendation? I wish DOREMI had made a more thoughtful selection here. A single disc might well have advertised the duo’s talents, but this is overkill. Even if the playing (especially in the middle movement) were more distinctive, it’s hard to envision anyone who was not already a Reding/Piette convert wanting to snap up three different performances of the Martin? Concerto. Still, those willing to take the redundancies and willing to skip over the hazy patches will find themselves rewarded by bursts of imaginative and enlivening playing.

Peter J. Rabinowitz, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Janine Reding (Piano), Henry Piette (Piano)
Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik,  Charles Munch,  Eugen Jochum,  Louis Martin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Concerto for 2 Pianos by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Henry Piette (Piano), Janine Reding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1935; France 
Concerto for 2 Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, Sz 115 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Janine Reding (Piano), Henry Piette (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; Budapest, Hungary 
Dialogo no 7 for 2 Pianos and Orchestra by Gian-Francesco Malipiero
Performer:  Janine Reding (Piano), Henry Piette (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; Italy 
Pieces (2) for Piano by Germaine Tailleferre
Performer:  Henry Piette (Piano), Janine Reding (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 

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