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A Celebration of Duo-Piano Music / Forte, Parkinson


Release Date: 07/25/2006 
Label:  Roméo Records   Catalog #: 7252   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Emmanuel ChabrierIsaac AlbenizFranz LisztManuel Infante,   ... 
Performer:  Madeleine ForteDel Parkinson
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a tremendous trio of discs—life-affirming, virtuoso, exploratory performances of often-great music. The pairing of Madeleine Forte (a student of Cortot and Kempf, and wife of the justly renowned theorist Allen Forte) and Del Parkinson is a formidable one. These performances are, we are told, live, yet the accuracy is astonishing. The live ambience serves to allow more of a sense of risk to enter these accounts.

A good idea, too, to have a disc each for music from Spain, France, and Russia. The Forte/Parkinson partnership adjusts to each with chameleon-like ease. Spain is unbuttoned, but of bright sunshine. A pity the recording lacks a little bit of depth, and that the live provenance is detectable in the performers
Read more adjusting to the Spanish atmosphere for the first couple of minutes of Chabrier’s España. By the end of this short work the performers are fully immersed in the sunshine, however.

There is a total of three Spanish rhapsodies on this first disc, by three different composers. The first is Albéniz, his Rapsodia española. Forte and Parkinson capture the misty opening just as surely as they do the later open-air exhilaration. The coda is accurate yet exciting. Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole is very well known, yet perhaps not so much in this Busoni version. Forte and Parkinson revel in the extended lyrical passages (here the perilous coda does sound a trifle careful). The third is Ravel’s famous Rhapsodie espagnole. Of all the works on the first disc, this is the most excitingly performed, from the shimmering “Prélude à la nuit” through the middle two dances to the heady, intoxicating “Feria.”

Manuel Infante (1883–1958) is a name that might be unfamiliar to some readers. Andalusian-born, he settled in Paris, taking his native sound world with him. The opening dance, marked ritmo, melts beautifully. The finale, Gracia, has a real swing to it (a sort of Spanish équivalent of the Germanic “schwung”). The Carmen fantasy is the ideal close to the program proper, a pot-pourri of delight. No wonder there is an encore—some Falla.

So to France. Saint-Saëns’s Variations on a Theme by Beethoven takes the trio of the Menuet from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 18 as its basis, an appropriate idea, as it turns out—as Beethoven’s registral leaps can be neatly transferred to cross-player badinage. Essentially, Saint-Saëns’s Gallic take on Beethoven is the epitome of good manners crossed with the most charming wit and eloquence, traits that the Forte/Parkinson team revels in.

Debussy’s En blanc et noir is much better known. If Forte and Parkinson cannot erase memories of Argerich/Kovacevich or Robert and Gaby Casadesus in this piece, this is a more than creditable account, its strength being its avoidance of unnecessary indulgence. The Lent is marvelously atmospheric, the final Scherzando elusive as well as playful. Ravel’s La valse is of a headier nature altogether. Forte and Parkinson could perhaps have been even more mysterious at the beginning, but as the music moves inexorably to its climax, it is difficult not to be dragged in. Poulenc’s cleaner language (in his Concerto for Two Pianos) comes as something of a palette-cleanser (delicious articulation from both players here). Even the bittersweet Larghetto has a certain cleansing quality about it. Bearing this in mind, the encore is perfectly chosen—Poulenc’s cheeky little Valse-musette.

Russia is the final port of call. Rachmaninoff is expected here, and he duly appears in the form of the two Suites. The Second is programmed first. Virtuosity is at its height here, but Forte and Parkinson marry this to a lyric impulse that equates the work firmly with the contemporaneous Second Concerto. The First Suite is actually the last item on the disc (there is no preserved encore). Dedicated to Tchaikovsky and written in 1893, it clearly inspires the players here. Forte and Parkinson project the twilit world of the gondolier perfectly in the opening “Barcarole”; “A night for love,” the second movement, is even more tender and sensual. There is a real Russian sadness to “Tears,” before “Russian Easter” closes the program with bells tolling unmistakably.

The inclusion of the Glière is a massive bonus as more of this composer’s output needs to be heard. Del Parkinson’s booklet notes rightly identify both Russian and Polish influences on these delicious morceaux (none of the pieces is longer than two minutes). There is wit and an easy flow of expression aplenty here (try the “Basso ostinato” fourth movement and its contrasting partner, the “Air de ballet”). A joy.

Anton Arensky is another composer deserving of wider currency. In fairness, the UK-based company Chandos has been doing its fair bit where this is concerned. A Rimsky-Korsakov pupil, Arensky became professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory. The Suite moves from “Romance” to “Waltz” and on to “Polonaise,” thus taking a state of echt-Russian longing (and, indeed, fantasy) as its starting point. The “Waltz” is eminently agreeable (and completely harmless); the final “Polonaise” bursts with pride. Khachaturian’s Fantastic Waltz seems the logical next piece, seeming to expand on Arensky’s emotional range, widening it to include a certain delirium.

So, taking the set as a whole, this is a recommendation, with minor reservations. This is an important set, intelligently planned and programmed and with real repertoire interest.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1. España by Emmanuel Chabrier
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
2. Rapsodia española, Op. 70 by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Madrid, Spain 
3. Rhapsodie espagnole for Piano, S 254 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1863; Rome, Italy 
Notes: Arranged: Busoni 
4. Andalusian Dances for Piano 4 hands by Manuel Infante
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Spain 
5. Rapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1908; France 
6. Carmen Fantasy by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
7. La vida breve: Spanish Dance no 1 by Manuel de Falla
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; Spain 
8. Variations for 2 Pianos on a theme of Beethoven, Op. 35 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 
9. En blanc et noir by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
10. La valse by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
11. Concerto for 2 Pianos in D minor by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; France 
12. Suite for 2 Pianos no 2, Op. 17 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900-1901; Russia 
13. Suite for 2 Pianos no 1, Op. 5 "Fantaisie-tableaux" by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
14. Suite for 2 Pianos no 1 in F major, Op. 15 by Anton Arensky
Performer:  Madeleine Forte (Piano), Del Parkinson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 

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