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Piano Concertos of the 1920s / Rische, Poppen

Release Date: 04/12/2005 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 910140   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aaron CoplandArthur HoneggerMaurice RavelGeorge Antheil
Performer:  Michael Rische
Conductor:  Steven SloaneIsrael YinonChristoph Poppen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony OrchestraBamberg Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc offers not only spectacular performances of some great (and with one exception, uncommon) repertoire, but also gives a clear look at an important and unruly decade in our musical history. George Antheil's heretofore-unrecorded Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is something of a find--literally. The story of the musicological detective work that was required to track down the manuscript is compellingly retold in the liner notes. The piece has Stravinsky's Petrouchka as its not-so-secret hero--sometimes coming a little too close for comfort--and it creates quite an attractive and original sound world in its one lean movement, freely moving between jazzy bombast to stark, brittle textures. Michael Rische's performance--with Christoph Read more Poppen and the Bamberg Symphony--captures every twist and turn in electrifying fashion.

Aaron Copland's Concerto, a lesser-known offering from this American master, is a problematic but exciting piece, and Rische, with partners Steven Sloane and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, pulls no punches. The result is as edge-of-your-seat exciting as the Antheil, and this energy continues with their performance of Honegger's Concertino, a charming, utilitarian work, tightly wrought, graceful, and unpretentious. But the high point of the disc is Ravel's concerto, with the same Köln forces directed by Israel Yinon. This masterpiece is among the greatest in the repertoire, and this is a note-perfect performance from beginning to end, especially due to Rische's outstanding pianism. He and the orchestra navigate the first movement's rapid-fire pacing and turn-on-a-dime form with amazing sparkle and razor accuracy. And they take the second movement at just the right tempo--not soupy, but in no hurry. The third movement is a zany romp, and Rische and his colleagues aren't afraid to be a little ridiculous with it, bleating and rollicking as the composer intended. It works.

The disc's only potential drawback--and this is more a matter of taste--is that the recording is a little piano-heavy. In some instances, as in the first movement of the Ravel, this actually makes for an interesting document because it allows every note from the solo instrument to be clearly heard rather than disappearing into the texture. Nevertheless, it's ultimately a minor point and should in no way impede anyone's enjoyment of this powerful release.

--Daniel Felsenfeld, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Steven Sloane
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Concertino for Piano by Arthur Honegger
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Steven Sloane
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; France 
Concerto for Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Israel Yinon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1931; France 
Concerto for Piano no 1 by George Antheil
Performer:  Michael Rische (Piano)
Conductor:  Christoph Poppen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; USA 

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