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20th Century Romantic Music For Two Pianos / Pierce, Jonas


Release Date: 08/1990 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7013   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-SaënsSergei RachmaninovArthur BenjaminClaude Debussy,   ... 
Performer:  Joshua PierceDorothy Jonas
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an interesting collection of music for two pianos. The well-known works of Rachmaninov, Benjamin, and Saint-Saëns are arrangements by the composers, which lends them a certain authority. And Pierce and Jonas generally play them well.

The kicker is found in the credit, “Digitally recorded between 1980 and 1987 at the Colden Center for the Performing Arts, Queens, N.Y. and Pro Piano, New York, N.Y.“ Thus we have recordings made over most of a decade. And since Pierce and Jonas “mark their 11th anniversary as a duo-piano team during the 1989-90 season,“ some of these recordings must have been made very early in their partnership.

Sure enough, there is a wide range in performance and recording
Read more quality to be heard here. I find the effective arrangement of the Danse Macabre a bit compromised by a tentative performance. The Symphonic Dances are also played a bit modestly, losing color not only in comparison with Rachmaninov's orchestral version but also with some other two-piano performances. Curiously, I like this approach to the music, and I enjoyed this performance quite a bit. Perhaps that is because I usually find the orchestral version overbearing. However, there is a drastic change of sound quality between the Dances and the following two Rachmaninov pieces, which sound very thin, tinny, and unpleasant. The Russian Rhapsody, fortunately, turns out to be an effective performance of a pleasant, if unimportant, early piece.

The Britten pieces, much needed on CD, are played with confidence, flair, and style. They almost justify the disc by themselves. I'll bet this was one of the recordings made at Pro Piano, though, as the recording is lacking in resonance and tonal richness (presumably not a fault of the Hamburg Steinways). Decca owes us a CD reissue of the 78-rpm recordings of these pieces by Curzon and Britten, which never even made it onto LP.

Bax is not a favorite of mine. This piece sounds like sideways Debussy, derivative without ingenuity. The little Benjamin trifle is bouncy enough. I like the Ravel arrangement oí Fêtes, but even with digital recording this performance is far from the color of the Lhevinnes on 78s (and this is one of the thinner-sounding recordings as well).

Lutosiawski's piece has become a staple of the modern two-piano literature. It was written, as Paul Turok's program notes inform us, for the two-piano team of Lutosiawski and Andrzej Panufnik! This piece should really be titled “Variations on Rachmaninov's 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,' “ although it's hard to tell whether Lutosiawski is paying tribute to Rachmaninov or poking fun at him (or both). The piece is rattling good fun, and it is played confidently here, although again the recording is lacking in resonance.

My first question with a collection like this is whether its interest transcends its specialist orientation. In this case I would have to say it doesn't, due to a few compromised performances and the erratic, often unsatisfactory recording. For two piano buffs and Britten completists, though, this will probably be self-recommending.

-- Leslie Gerber, FANFARE [11/1990] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Danse macabre in G minor, Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs. 
2.
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940; USA 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 27 Minutes 4 Secs. 
3.
Jamaican Rumba by Arthur Benjamin
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 1 Minutes 33 Secs. 
4.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra: no 2, Fêtes by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: French Impressionist 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 5 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: Transcribed: Ravel 
5.
Variations on a theme of Paganini for 2 Pianos by Witold Lutoslawski
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; Poland 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 5 Minutes 14 Secs. 
6.
Introduction and Rondo alla burlesca for 2 Pianos, Op. 23 no 1 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; England 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 6 Minutes 44 Secs. 
7.
Mazurka elegiaca for 2 Pianos, Op. 23 no 2 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Dorothy Jonas (Piano), Joshua Pierce (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; England 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 5 Minutes 14 Secs. 
8.
Polka italienne for Piano 4 Hands by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1906; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
9.
Morceaux de fantaisies (5), Op. 3: no 2, Prélude in C sharp minor by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Dorothy Jonas (Piano), Joshua Pierce (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
10.
Russian Rhapsody for 2 Pianos in E minor by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Dorothy Jonas (Piano), Joshua Pierce (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 6 Minutes 46 Secs. 
11.
Poisoned Fountain by Arnold Bax
Performer:  Joshua Pierce (Piano), Dorothy Jonas (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
Date of Recording: 1980-87 
Venue:  Colden Center for the Performing Arts,NY 
Length: 3 Minutes 55 Secs. 

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