Dvorák`s Piano Concerto is worth getting to know. While this
is a personal opinion, and I can offer no evidence to support the claim,
I believe this very attractive piece reveals the true character and personality
of Dvorák. It dates from 1876. Ten years earlier he had composed his
song cycle Cypress Trees written at the disappointment he felt over
a girl he loved marrying someone else. Later, Dvorák was to marry
her sister and this concerto is a sunny work which has a felicity reminiscent
of Mendelssohn. Michael Kennedy asserts that Dvorák had a Schubertian
gift for melody ... where does he obtain these odd ideas? Dvorák`s
gift of melody owes more to Bohemian folk music and the grace of Mozart
but also to his natural melodic gift which was entirely his.
There is an admirable simplicity about this concerto. That does not mean
it is easy to play. What is also admirable is that Dvorák was not
a pianist and one might expect his concerto to be as duff as, for example,
the one by Vaughan Williams. But it isn't. It is a good and very satisfying
Andreas Boyde's performance is both very exciting and gloriously effective.
This technique is unquestionable and now we have evidence of a true lyricism.
He is a pianist with steel fingers and a warm heart.. Every bit a complete
musician. The slow movement reminded me of the Krommers and the Bendas with
that wonderful mid-European clarity and rustic delight ... certainly not
Schubert. Dvorák's clear textures are a constant joy. There is a beauty
and stillness in this music which Boyde captures to perfection. The
finale is also very well realised.
Paul Schoenfields Four Parables is a tour de farce for any
pianist. This is brilliant, sleazy, jazzy, vaudeville music but of the highest
quality. So good is it that it makes George Gershwin sound like an amateur.
What joyful, witty and totally absorbing music this is. You must read the
accompanying booklet to discover the intriguing subject matter of the four
movements, Unashamed foot tapping material as well as an elegy of
As for the piano playing, one can only exclaim astonishment and admiration.
It is a sensational success.
The recording is exemplary
and another view from Peter Grahame Woolf
Dvorák's early piano concerto is written off in New Grove with one
dismissive sentence. I have quite enjoyed its occasional airings, but never
so much as in Andreas Boyde's 1994 live recording from a Freiburg
concert with a very sympathetic conductor. It is criticised for not being
overtly virtuosic, but its pianistic difficulties have militated against
frequent performances. There is a haunting slow movement played with a touching
inwardness, and the final allegro con fuoco has a pre-echo of the
Symphonic Variations of a decade later, which for me would have been a preferable
However, this CD is devised as a showcase for Andreas Boyde, whose recording
of Tchaikovsky's 2nd concerto, with the same orchestra and conductor,
I had previously admired (Athene ATH
CD16). Paul Schoenfield, an Arizona graduate,
started composing at 7 and wrote this programmatic concerto in the early
1980s when he was about 35. It is a light-weight piece of virtuosic writing
in a tonal idiom with popular references, and suits Andreas Boyde's confident,
extravert style of pianism, captured in a 1998 concert in Dresden. The four
movements are conceived as parables about American life. We meet a quadriplegic
murderer (not as sinister as you might expect); an Alzheimer victim reflecting
on his once vigorous past; an elegy for an acquaintance who, because of religious
fanaticism, died without medical help, and a story about a jazz club in a
Dog Heaven, which the composer had made up to console some children whose
mother had got rid of the family pet! Pleasant but forgettable mainstream
music, wholly derivative, brash and ultimately meretricious. Others who prefer
late 20th century music to be nearer the 19th than
the 21st will certainly disagree, and the Schoenfield concerto
will give pleasure to those who like their new music to be not too challenging.
The piano is balanced well forward in the Schoenfield, as is the common way
with piano concertos on CD; much more natural in the Dvorák. It is,
anyhow, well worth buying for the Dvorák alone and, with his London
connections and an English record company, I am eager to have an opportunity
to review Andreas Boyde live in concert for Seen
Peter Grahame Woolf
I was so taken with the companion work on this disc with its
Bartok/Bernstein/Ibert influences that I asked Rob Barnett to give it
a special hearing. LM
PAUL SCHOENFIELD Piano Concerto
Four Parables (1983) 28.50
This concerto is in a mildly challenging jazzy idiom, not at all bland, rattling
and shuddering with feeling and display. It is a spicily apposite and happily
disconcerting stable-mate for the Dvorák and we should be grateful
to Athene for their brave spirit in coupling the two works.
The four parables are macabre 'twilight zone' fables. The first movement's
sleepy tension is redolent of Shostakovich 8 with Hebraic cross-currents
but this is soon cast aside in a jazzy tumbling onslaught the twin, in character,
with Peter Mennins Piano Concerto. Senility's Ride (II) is a dream dance
- sheets of shot silk and slews of fog evolving into smoochy speakeasy dances
winding through a smoky phantasm. A jazzy rumpus erupts - all Gershwin and
Arnold. In fact the inspiration for some of this may well have been Arnold's
Concerto for Phyllis and Cyril with a similar level of taste collapse.
The Elegy (III) is written for someone whose religious fanaticism denied
himself medical attention and died young. The minor key miasma is not at
all bluesy. Instead we get the most avant-garde of the four movements with
disconnected rhapsodising, drum-taps and battering possessed anger. The finale
(Dog Heaven) is a crazy side-walk ragtime with dashes of Mozart 'walking
the dog' all topped off with a chaotic feral shindig met with uproarious
applause. This is a work of gutsy collage-like exuberance and Boyde and the
Dresden orchestra are all willing spurs and riders.