Piano Concertos Vol 2
This discerning programme of French concertos from the first half of the 20th century is the worthy sequel to a 2013 disc (Hännsler, 8/13) by Florian Uhlig, Pablo González and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie that included Debussy’s Fantaisie, the Concertino of Françaix and the Poulenc and Ravel concertos. The new release warrants an equally warm reception.
Not least remarkable is the fact that two of the four works recorded here are by women. So far as I can tell, the Fantasy by the 25-year-old Nadia Boulanger has been recorded only once before, by David Greilsammer with Steven Sloane conducting the Radio France PO. Uhlig and González make a strong case for a piece that alternates between anguish and tender lyricism, with orchestration that presages Shostakovich. Even more appealing is Germaine Tailleferre’s lush Ballade, another seldom-encountered work that argues eloquently for a closer look at this composer’s prolific oeuvre.
Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand makes almost as many demands on the orchestra as on the soloist. Happily, González and the German Radio players are full partners in an imaginative reading, facilitated by hand-in-glove ensemble. If it doesn’t replace the recording by Claire Chevallier playing a 1905 Érard with Anima Eterna under Jos van Immerseel as my favourite of the piece, it certainly rewards repeated listening.
At a little over 18 minutes, Françaix’s 1936 Concerto is the longest work on the disc, as well as the most recent. Of the composers represented here, Françaix was perhaps the most expert pianist. It follows that his use of the instrument is imaginative and resourceful. Uhlig’s mercurial emotional range, rhythmic acuity and light touch contribute to an intriguing and witty performance. A slightly flat recorded sound is the only minor deficit of a disc as rich in musical insights as it is enjoyable.