Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:


François-Adrien BOIELDIEU (1775-1834) Piano Concerto in F Major
Pastorale con variazioni

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Piano Concerto (1903)
Andante moderato
Airs slovaques, Allegro

Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)  Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op.12 (1887)

Edouard LALO (1823-1892)  Piano Concerto in F-minor
Lento, Allegro

Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944) Concertstück for Piano & Orchestra (1908)
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Piano Concerto, Op.36 (1927)
Allegro molto
Allegro con spirito

Jean FRANÇAIX (1912- ) Piano Concerto (1936)
Without title
Without title

Martin Galling (piano), Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra/Wagner;
Marylene Dosse (piano), Westphalian Symphony Orchestra/Landau/ & Stuttgart Philharmonic/ Kuntzsch;
Maria Littauer (piano), Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/Springer;
Rosario Marciano (piano) & Claude Paillard-Françaix (piano), Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg/de Froment & Françaix
Rec. 1967/80
VOXBOX CDX5110 [CD1 70.14; CD2 75.47]
 £9.99  AmazonUK   AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations


This is an extension to the main VoxBox piano volumes, representing performing virtuoso-playing composers of the Romantic tradition. In this French volume, sensitivity has been shown in making sure the order of the works chosen relates to the historical context in which belong.


Boieldieu came from Rouen and focused his interests on the theatre in Paris, establishing himself as a lyric composer. Although a pianist, he is known today more for his elegant scores to a number of operas, the most famous being 'La Dame Blanche'. His Piano Concerto in F Major was composed when young, soon after he arrived in Paris. The work is bright, frothy and tuneful. A pastoral lyrical movement [Pastorale con variazioni] contrasts with the busy Allegro, which opens the work. A number of variations follow, first played solo and then accompanied by the orchestra. It is a well written work and shows considerable maturity for a young composer.

Massenet concentrated on composing songs and opera (28 operas, in fact) and only wrote a small quantity of piano music. Previously, these works have been competently recorded by Aldo Ciccolini. He wrote only one Piano Concerto (in 1903) which to me does not show Massenet's art at its best: at times he seems to struggle getting the orchestra to dovetail the piano part. An Andante moderato opens the piece with a dreamy prelude before establishing a more dramatic subject. The Largo provides a stately contrast to the Andante yet tends to lack purpose. An Airs Slovaques which starts off sluggishly soon gathers momentum and an Allegro brings the piece to a close with a hint of 'The Cid' possibly recognised.

Pierné is an obscure composer to many of us, mainly remembered for his 'March of the Little Soldiers' and 'Entrance of the Little Fauns'. Yet he composed eight operas, ten ballets, many cantatas, chamber music and songs. He was a pupil of Massenet and Franck. His Piano Concerto in C Minor is animated and dashing, and is probably the most interesting work to listen to on this first disc. The Allegro which opens, is purposeful and makes use of cyclic ideas: a bold theme assigned to the soloist soon sets up a dialogue with the trumpets before the rest of the orchestra join in a lengthy conversation. The Scherzando is particularly charming with its catchy, tripping measure. (We can recognise elfin touches of his ballet music here.) The Final is an energetic, stirring and emotional movement, with impish fragments, which move energetically to a powerful climax.


Lalo studied the violin, cello and piano yet was not particularly prolific and is largely remembered for his Symphonie Espagnole and Concerto for cello and orchestra. He composed only one piano concerto, his Piano Concerto in F-minor of which this would appear to be the only recording. It is cyclic in form, involving the recurrence of variations of themes. A slow and initially dark Lento opens the work, after which an Allegro follows. This now brings in thematic material to be revisited in the subsequent movements. This dramatic movement is ruminative in nature rather than active until it flows into an animated coda. A meditative Lento contains a gently lilting accompanying figure, similar to a lullaby. The final Allegro, in Sonata form, has the usual development section replaced by a self-contained episode.

Chaminade began composing when she was eight. She turned out much parlour piano music and was widely known for her composition of the Scarf Dance. She could be relied on to turn out pieces with good melodies and imaginative rhythm. Much of her orchestral music remains unheard, but with her Concertstück she made her American debut as a pianist in 1908. The Concertstück for Piano and Orchestra opens dramatically with tense string gestures, reminiscent of Wagner and with a peppering of Chabrier. The work is episodic, and highly spiced with good orchestral colour.

During the 20s, Roussel who was taught by d'Indy, was considered to be one of France's leading composers - nearly as famous as Ravel. His Third Symphony was commissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra for their 50th Anniversary; such was his standing. The notes tell us that Roussel's music is characterised by a melodic line of great length, plasticity and power; and he reinforces this type of melody with polymodal harmonic structure. The Piano Concerto in G Major was written in 1927 when he was 58, ten years before his death. It is unlike most concertos in that the opening movement, Allegro molto, is obviously not composed to have any strong impact. It is more the ravings of a tortured soul. The concerto pivots around the slow movement, an Adagio which conveys much feeling and yearning. The work finishes with an Allegro con spirito which provides humour, urgency, colour and brilliance.

Françaix is famous for his delectably charming compositions. These are unmistakably French, witty, and often convey a sense of fun. As a virtuoso pianist he played in the first performances of most of his works which featured the piano. Although his Piano Concerto was written in 1936, this recording marks the composer's recording debut as a conductor, with his daughter at the piano. The work is scored for a large chamber orchestra, with double woods, pairs of trumpets, trombones and strings. It carries movements with unusual headings: Without title - Andante - Without title - and Allegro. Without title holds many surprises from its unexpected beginning. The character of this first movement with its intertwining melodies gives one the impression of a bustling and busy Parisienne street scene. The Andante which follows is a much more ponderous and dreamy movement. A second Without title is more on the lines of a scherzo yet carries thematic material similar to that found in the first movement. The final Allegro continues the dialogue between piano and orchestra which comes to a fairly abrupt ending. (The notes do not assist with any understanding of the composer's aims in scoring this piece.)

The various soloists are a delight to listen to, and handle both powerful and sensitive passages with considerable skill. The orchestras generally play well under their individual conductors but in certain passages the horns/trombones are insecure. The background notes are more than adequate though more could have been said about the works themselves. Something should be said about the new style slim double jewel case used by Vox. The internal leaf is poorly designed and the clips, too weak to hold the discs, break off in transit. (Why redesign when an robust version exists, one wonders?)

The analogue recordings of the 70s are clear with no background noise that usually shows up in recordings of this period. The recording of the Pierné work (from 1978) is disappointing; the acoustics are particularly dry and the higher frequencies are lost. These recordings, like all previous Vox concertos reviewed, are pleasantly balanced for piano. The recording venues are not given in the notes.

Raymond Walker

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