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Piano Concertos Of The 1920s Vol 2 / Rische, Schuller, Et Al

Release Date: 06/14/2005 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 510510   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George AntheilGeorge GershwinErwin Schulhoff
Performer:  Michael Rische
Conductor:  Wayne MarshallGunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony OrchestraCologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These three piano-and-orchestra works epitomize the music of the 1920s: they are bright, jazzy, and bursting with energy. The “small orchestra” of Erwin Shulhoff’s title is misleading: it has plenty to do, as does the pianist. The first movement of this 1923 concerto opens with the piano in a Debussy-like mood, but the influence of Prokofiev’s First and Third Concertos becomes obvious. By the time the third movement—Allegro alla jazz, Alla zingaresca, Tempo I, Prestissimo—comes crashing to a halt, we have also visited Ravel’s G-Major Concerto and heard from Varèse’s siren. But check the dates: it was Schulhoff’s blessing and his curse that he often had musical Read more ideas before those who would eventually do more for them than he could. Like much of his music, this concerto is fascinating, enjoyable, but not memorable. Michal Rische’s performance is gorgeous.

George Antheil’s single-movement comes as close to real jazz as classical music ever does, and it makes little pretense of being serious: instruments shriek, groan, and imitate bodily functions (well, if Haydn could get away with it . . .). Then it stops being funny, and a solo piano muses gently. The rough humor sneaks back in gradually. You might be tempted to dance a Charleston to some of it, but the constant surprises would get your feet all tangled up. Another section is a chaotic Iron Foundry, accompanied by a wailing saxophone. Just when you think any one idea will persist too long, Antheil suddenly reverses course. The lead-in to Pétrouchka’s cries from the rooftop segues into one last waltz. It is all so clever that it never seems cheap or obvious, and this performance is even funnier than that by Michael Tilson Thomas on RCA.

George Gershwin’s 1925 Concerto is a terribly complex piece, with many contrasting elements that can be difficult to reconcile. But it contains such irresistible material that everybody tries; one of these days some pianist/conductor team is going to get it just right, and we will recognize what a masterpiece it is. Unfortunately, this is not the occasion: Michael Rische plays the tender sections with much feeling but is nothing special in the hot stuff, and conductor Wayne Marshall and his Berlin orchestra sometimes seem to be playing a different piece. Oscar Levant, Earl Wild, Phillippe Entremont, André Previn, and Hélène Grimaud have made notable recordings, but the best is surely yet to come. If I had to choose one today, it would be a live performance by David Syme with Herrera de la Fuente leading Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria, which may be found on the Internet, on several different labels.

This low-priced disc makes a great opening impression with a beautifully recorded piano. Piano concertos present difficult problems, because the reverberance needed to make an orchestra come alive on disc can make a piano sound heavy and boomy. Sure enough, the Cologne orchestra sounds a touch thin in the Schulhoff, but perhaps that’s the “small” of the title. The Berlin recordings are not quite as kind to the keyboard but are more so to the orchestra. There are so many delightful moments here that I must recommend this disc wholeheartedly.

FANFARE: James H. North

The very quick tempo that opens the Gershwin is deceptive: this is a relaxed but never slack reading of the Concerto in F, at least in the first two movements. Wayne Marshall gets some very stylish playing out by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and it's interesting to note that the timings here are almost identical to Marshall's own recordings for Virgin, where he both plays and conducts. Under the circumstances you might think that pianist Michael Rische is merely along for the ride, but he offers a warm and intelligent account of the solo part, both here and in the single-movement Antheil Jazz Symphony (which actually is a mini concerto for piano and orchestra). And the finale has plenty of verve, even if it doesn't match the classic Wild/Fiedler on RCA.

The real gem here, though, is the Schulhoff, a minor masterpiece of 1920s "Euro-jazz" and a delicious work remarkably similar in shape and concept to Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand (which it predates by almost a decade). Gunther Schuller presides over the most insane "jazz" outburst yet, with rattles, typewriters, and all kinds of exotic percussion, making the music sound like the sort of thing Carl Stalling later did for Looney Tunes. Rische captures both the music's dreamy interludes as well as its grittier edge, and the sonics, warm and a bit recessed in the Gershwin and Antheil, have more impact here. This is far and away the best performance of this work, beating out some very good competition on Supraphon, and a less interesting contender on Decca. A very enjoyable disc.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

A Jazz Symphony by George Antheil
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Wayne Marshall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Paris, France 
Concerto for Piano in F major by George Gershwin
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Wayne Marshall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; USA 
Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra, Op. 43 by Erwin Schulhoff
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Cologne, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 unexpected pleasure August 10, 2013 By J. Tatnall (West Grove, PA) See All My Reviews "Buying this disc and its partner Vol. 1 for the more obscure works thereon, it is exciting to find truly authoritative and passionate performances of the Gershwin F and Ravel G major concertos as well. These performances by Michael Rische have now become favorites. Obviously my opinion differs from some of the critics, but there are many approaches to "jazzy music" as divergent performances of Porgy have shown us recently: Maazel, Rattle, Harnencourt, Mauceri, Levine, etc. Whether one looks to the roots of jazz, the elements of impressionism, or the Second Viennese School, there are many influences and ways to look at a modern masterpiece or two." Report Abuse
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