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Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1934) [21.03]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1969) [23.25]
Ballade for piano and orchestra (1939) [17.24]
Jean-François Antonioli (piano)
I Filarmonici di Torino/Marcello Viotti
rec. RAI Auditorium, Turin, August 1986 ADD?
CLAVES CD 50-8509 [62.33]

This disc comes into direct comparison with ASV's CD of the complete music for piano and orchestra. These Claves tapes have been around for years. They first came out on vinyl D8509 in 1986 and on CD CD508509 in 1987. It represented the commercial world premiere of the First Concerto. The Second Piano Concerto had already been recorded by Paul Badura-Skoda (the dedicatee) on LP (Vox STGBY661) then reissued by Jecklin on CD on JD632-2 in 1990. This Vox LP also had the Szigeti-premiered Violin Concerto as its beautiful coupling. There the soloist was Wolfgang Schneiderhan recording it for the second time (his first had been for Decca with Ansermet).

The pianist on the competing ASV disc, Sebastian Benda, takes the concertos somewhat faster shaving seconds off Antonioli’s time yet not unduly hurried. The ASV sound is better than the now eighteen year old Claves. The other thing in ASVs favour is that it includes a further work for piano and orchestra, the piece called simply Peur. The presence of Benda lends special eminence to the release. As early as 1974 Benda recorded on LP the Ballade with Martin conducting (Vox STGBY669).

The First Concerto is reputed to bear similarities with what are now viewed as his classic works (Petite symphonie concertante and Concerto for seven wind instruments). From the outset the work had eminent advocates. Gieseking premiered the piece at a Suisse Romande concert with Ansermet conducting. However real acclaim came when it found its way onto the programme of the 1936 ISCM in Barcelona. Antonioli seems to be well on top of the piece both technically and spiritually. He is compromised however by an opaque tendency of sound that can be attributed to a permutation of engineering, acoustic and orchestra. The Second Concerto is rather lacklustre as a piece by comparison with the brilliance of the First.

No contest really. It has to be the Benda. Antonioli is a very fine artist but the overall effect is noticeably at a disadvantage against the even more generous ASV. In the present case I also find against this particular Claves disc because it has been specially produced as a presentation set in 2002 to mark Korea’s Independence Day. The biographical notes and part of the cover are in Korean with only the artist profile in English.

Rob Barnett



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