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Théodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)
Concerto-capriccioso in C minor (1876) [16:18]
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor (1897) [27:59]
Suite for piano and string orchestra in F minor (1917) [21:05]
Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze
rec. June 2012, City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow
HYPERION CDA67931 [65:24]

Few of Dubois’s works have attained much staying power in the active repertoire, but the 60th volume of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto edition restores three of them to the current catalogue. That said, however, only the 1917 Suite for piano and string orchestra is receiving its première recording. You can find, for example, the Concerto-capriccioso with the Suite Concertante and the Fantasiestücke for cello and orchestra on Mirare MIR141.
I wrote briefly about Dubois when reviewing his Violin Concerto. The early 1876 Concerto-capriccioso opens - unexpectedly - with a long cadenza, full of roulades and digital demands. The accompanying orchestra fabric, when it eventually arrives, is rather run-of-the-mill, and largely paragraphal, offering buttressed support to the soloist but little of a more integrated function. Still, the piano is the focus, and the solo writing is alternately agitated and dramatic and extremely well laid out. That said, I’d have been tempted to be bold and recast it as a solo concerto, and have been rid of the orchestra.
‘Very modern in style’ a contemporary critic opined of the Piano Concerto No.2 of 1897. To me, though, it’s rather Schumannesque in places but with hints too of Chopin and even Grieg with the piano often offering a decorative gloss on things. The orchestral accompaniment is, also, much more varied, some of it very lovely. The solo writing is not especially virtuosic per se, and that’s to its advantage. The slow movement is quietly grave, opened by the piano, taken up by the orchestra, and subsequently embellished by the piano. The vital, energetic scherzo must owe a debt to Saint-Saëns, even taking on a habañera contour at one point. The finale, in the solo cadenza that launches it, strikes me as something of a Franck crib in places, though the recapitulation of earlier thematic material is neatly done and again the spirit of Saint-Saëns continues to haunt the work, usefully dampening the somewhat half-hearted fugal passage. Academism is an ever-present worry with Dubois but here it’s lightly conceived.
Through all these thickets and lyrical episodes Cédric Tiberghien strides with great refinement and energy. So he does in the late Suite, composed in 1917. It’s, as ever, a backward-looking opus, but charmingly led by the piano; the string orchestra remaining subsidiary for much of the length. The highlight is undoubtedly the lovely, lyrical slow movement.
The performances throughout, from soloist and accompanists alike, are warm, elegant and committed. The recording is finely balanced too. As with the Violin Concerto, I can’t proclaim any of these three piano works to be a marvel of invention, but they’re all engaging and contain some delightful features.
Jonathan Woolf  

Hype rion Romantic piano concertos: Review index