Le Paris des Romantiques
The premise of this fascinating disc is that all three composers knew, worked with and respected one another in the Paris of the first half of the 19th century. If Liszt and Berlioz have not had any trouble being remembered over the years, Napoléon Henri Reber (1807-80) has long since faded from view. But in his day he was an influential figure at the Paris Conservatoire and a friend of Saint-Saëns, who made a four-hand piano transcription of the Fourth Symphony that Reber had written in the 1850s.
It is a substantial piece, conservative in the sense that the ghosts of Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert loom over it but, at the same time, with a dramatic flourish revealing that Reber knew the operatic conventions of his age and was well aware of both Mendelssohn and Weber. The score certainly merits the polished and vivacious advocacy that Le Cercle de l’Harmonie under Jérémie Rhorer bring to it on what is plausibly billed as its world premiere recording. The orchestra’s period instruments add punch and pungent colour, as they to a beguiling performance of Berlioz’s Rêverie et Caprice with the violinist Julien Chauvin. The instrumental timbres are equally well adapted to the Erard piano of 1837 on which Bertrand Chamayou plays the E flat Concerto that Liszt completed in the following decade. With a warmer, mellower sonority than that of a 21st-century grand, the Erard also possesses power and depth that Chamayou harnesses alongside his sparkling virtuosity.