Notes and Editorial Reviews
If you have 76 minutes to spare for some rare, interesting, and vastly enjoyable piano duet repertoire, consider this release. Georges Onslow's two sonatas bristle with invention and virtuosity, and ought to attract duetists looking for substantial concert fare beyond the ubiquitous Mozart sonatas and Schubert F minor Fantasy. Some of the music's more harmonically adventurous episodes and dramatic build-ups might represent a missing link between Weber and Chopin. The Balakirev suite's fervent momentum and irresistible tunes also warrant more frequent performances. Three selections from Reger's Burlesques reveal a lighter, more humorous side of a composer not especially known for, well, lightness and humor! The 17-year-old Wagner's Polonaise
is a charming piece of fluff that bears not one iota of the mature composer's genius. By contrast, Grieg's familiar, unpretentious idiom and subtle keyboard writing makes me regret that the Buccheri/Boldrey duo chose only two of his Norwegian Dances. While the sound quality of the original analog 1978 and 1985 recordings is only fair to middling, the pianists' invigorating spirit and excellent ensemble values come through loud and clear. Recommended.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Cedille Records have reissued a disc of
Romantic Music for Piano Four-Hands that first appeared on two separate LPs from 1978 and 1985. The sound engineers have digitally re-mastered the reel-to-reel tapes from the original recording sessions at North Park University, Chicago. The selection of Romantic works from Reger, Wagner, Liszt, Grieg, Balakirev and two from Onslow is most imaginative and one that seems unique.
Following their meeting as students at North Park University in Chicago piano duettists Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey were active on the recital platform and in the broadcasting studio as the Buccheri-Boldrey piano duo in the 1970s and 1980s.
Up to the end of the 19th century Georges Onslow was held in the highest esteem. Sometimes nicknamed the “
French Beethoven”, he was particularly admired in Germany, Austria and England where he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers alongside Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. In fact people declared that Onslow was the only worthy successor to Beethoven. Soon after his death his music fell into obscurity and up 1984, the bicentennial of his birth, he remained virtually unknown.
Commencing the disc is Onslow’s
Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 7 for piano four-hands, composed it seems in 1815. The opening movement
Allegro espressivo is carefree and jovial somewhat reminiscent of an overture to a Rossini opera. Tender and passionate, the
Romanza must surely be a depiction of a torrid love affair. The
Agitato is high-stepping and exuberant. Briskly played by Buccheri and Boldrey the pace hardly lets up.
Max Reger’s three pieces are taken from his set of
Six Burlesques, Op. 58. Determined and urgent
No. 4 Schnell und grotesk contains a slower central section.
There is light and vivacious playing in the
No. 5 Äusserst schnell und flüchtig with this variegated score having two calmer sections. In the short final piece
No. 6 So lebhaft und übermütig als nur möglich I found Buccheri and Boldrey’s interpretation forthright and rumbustious.
It may be a surprise to many that Richard Wagner wrote for the piano at all. Among his handful of piano works some are now lost or destroyed. The
Polonaise in D major is an early work originally composed for two-hands but he also made this revision for four-hands. Influenced by the spirit of the dance one notices the strong dotted rhythms. Reminding me at times of the quality of a comic opera this is rather inconsequential and light-hearted stuff. Nevertheless, Buccheri and Boldrey play with an assured
joie de vivre.
Franz Liszt wrote his
Grand Valse di Bravura, RV209 in 1836 originally as a solo piano piece. From Liszt’s early period this is a sparkling salon effort in dance form. Typically virtuosic and brilliant in style Buccheri and Boldrey’s interpretation conveys significant appeal. In the
coda the weight and intensity of the playing increases in the rush to the finishing-line.
Grieg’s set of
4 Norwegian Dances, Op. 35 were especially written for four-hand piano. Here Grieg was inspired by Lindeman’s
Older and Newer Folk-Dance Music. Seven years later Grieg recast them for two-hand piano solo. There is also a popular version for orchestra made by Hans Sitt. Sadly here Buccheri and Boldrey have only recorded
No. 2 and
No. 3 - both tuneful and memorable.
The influential Russian composer and teacher Mily Balakirev wrote relatively few scores. His early
Islamey an ‘
Oriental Fantasy’ still remains popular. Less known is the
Suite for Piano Four-Hands a late work completed in 1908. Buccheri and Boldrey are spirited in the
Polonaise, gentle and comforting in the
Chansonette and lively in the appealing
Scherzo. I detected one or two examples of untidy playing in this tricky score but nothing major to worry about.
The final score Onslow’s
Sonata No.2 in F Minor, Op. 22 a companion to the earlier opus 7 score was composed in 1823. The first movement marked
Allegro moderato e patetico is highly virtuosic played with vigour and spirit. Light and dance-like the
contains short episodes of increased weight and vitality. I found the final movement
Largo - Allegro espressivo sad and affecting. At times the themes were suggestive of Beethoven sonatas. From 2:29 Buccheri and Boldrey shift into a brisker and more energetic gear.
The re-mastered sound quality is to a high quality and the booklet notes provide all the basic information needed. On the front cover of the booklet the copy of the Turner oil painting
East Cowes Castle (c.1835) from the Tate Collection, London really catches the eye. There is so much to enjoy in this delightful Cedille reissue of Romantic music for piano four hands.
-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Suite for Piano 4 hands by Mily Balakirev
Richard Boldrey (Piano),
Elizabeth Buccheri (Piano)
Length: 13 Minutes 24 Secs.
Notes: Composition written: Circa 1850-60 - 1909.
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