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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67975
Recording details: October 2012
Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Michael Rast
Release date: November 2013
Total duration: 23 minutes 0 seconds

'A real winner … one of the very jolliest of piano-and-orchestra recordings to come my way for some time … being Gounod, it is supremely well-crafted melodic music but the kind of material that can collapse like a soufflé without the right cast to show it in its best light … Hyperion's cast is top drawer … given exactly the right light touch and deft execution, abetted by Howard Shelley's stylish accompaniment, Gounod's box of bonbons is an unexpected delight' (Gramophone)

'Excellent performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Very well played by Roberto Prosseda' (The Guardian)

'These four works are often charming and witty, sometimes massive and sometimes delicate. Prosseda plays all of the solo parts with Gallic elegance, while Howard Shelley encourages the strings of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana to play with superb legato, and the woodwinds to combine with the upper register of the piano in delightful tintinnabulations. Hyperion's recorded sound expands and contracts in accord with the sonority of the music. This release is certainly 'off the beaten track' but it is definitely worth exploring' (International Record Review)

'Gounod composed four works for piano and orchestra, and these are expertly captured on this Hyperion album … the sound world is fascinating; a multi-textured tapestry woven by an empowered soloist. The neoclassical Suite concertante in A major has fire in its belly, full of swooping melodies and earworm motifs. The Concerto juxtaposes light and dark, yet retains a playful character' (International Piano)

‘Im Klavierkonzert [werden] triumphale Gestik und aristokratischer Habitus allerdings hinter eleganten Arabesken und melancholischen Passagen verschleiert … parallel zu den Orchesterstimmen, von Howard Shelley genau balanciert, kann Roberto Prosseda den nicht allzu virtuosen Duktus makellos in die „Chasse“, in die sehr liebliche Romanze und schließlich bis zur perkussiven Tarantella nahtlos integrieren’ (Piano, Germany)

Suite concertante in A major
early spring 1886; for pedal piano and orchestra; first performed in Bordeaux on 17 March 1887

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Suite concertante in A major was completed in early spring 1886. Its premiere in Bordeaux on 17 March 1887 was followed by a second performance at the Royal Philharmonic Society in London on 23 April, while in Paris the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire had to abandon a projected performance because the firm of Pleyel-Wolf anticipated needing forty minutes to set up the instrument and twenty to remove it.

The score is conceived as a sweeping fresco, giving pride of place to clarity, simplicity and a wholesome brio. After the neoclassical flavour of the opening tutti, Entrée de fête, a deliciously frivolous motif precedes the reprise of the first theme by the soloist. But this restatement is elliptical and modulatory, leading to a succession of parallel sixth chords that introduce the second theme: a long flowing, undulating melody sung by the left hand.

The evocation of the hunt in the horns and strings of the Chasse is thoroughly realistic. The piano takes up these formulas and soon launches into galloping figuration. A harsh ‘mort’ on the pedal-board gives the signal for a second crescendo, grimmer and more concise, modulating and rising to fortissimo. Then the strings establish a meditative mood. The piano responds with a cantabile theme in almost choral style, shifting curiously from the religious to the galant. The orchestra takes up the cantabile theme, accompanied by arpeggios from the soloist. Anguished tremolos bring back the hunting motif, which bursts forth in a fortissimo tutti. This recurrence of the initial motif is the starting point for a true development in which the full forces are deployed.

A chain of modulating arpeggiated chords provides a transition to the Romance. A long introverted clarinet theme, prolonged and intensified by the strings, prepares the entry of the piano. It is tempting to consider the central section as an ornamented free variation of the opening theme, in which the soloist emerges from the amiably supportive orchestra in a highly Mozartian style of pianism. Halfway through, the accompaniment is reduced to almost no more than the Alberti bass in the violas. Thus, when the violins take up the opening theme of the first section, it seems natural that the piano should accompany it with that same Alberti bass, as in Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto. The cadenza, which extends over a tonic pedal in the horns, sets the ethereal piano against the melancholy song of the lower woodwind in one of those valedictory atmospheres whose secret Gounod found in Mozart.

The piano leads the way in the Tarentelle, for the orchestra seems merely to cling to its coat-tails. When the flutes and clarinets, in flowing parallel thirds, impose C major over a double pedal point, the effect is like a ray of sunshine that increases the tension: modulations, crescendo, chromaticisms, rapid exchanges between the sections of the orchestra and the soloist up to an imposing fortissimo over 6–4 harmonies that are maintained virtually until the conclusion.

from notes by Gérard Condé © 2013
English: Charles Johnston

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