Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto (CD review)

Romantic Piano Classics from the Silver Screen. Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Hugh Wolf, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Cleveland Orchestra. Decca 289 460 503-2.

The movies have forever used classical music as themes and background, from the earliest silent films and their piano and organ accompaniment to today's big-screen, multichannel blockbusters. Stanley Kubrick practically revived the entire classical-music scene with his groundbreaking films. But of the five items on the Decca disc under review, only the ersatz Warsaw Concerto was written directly for a film, Dangerous Moonlight, in 1941. All the other pieces derive from existing classical material.

The other works included are parts of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto. These selections featured in the films Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch, The Story of Three Loves, Groundhog Day, Rhapsody in Blue, and Manhattan.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays all of the music almost painfully romantically, yearningly, wistfully, rapturously, if not always so forcefully as you might find elsewhere. The Rachmaninov Adagio, for instance, lacks much fire in spite of its ecstatic nature. The orchestras, Cleveland under Vladimir Ashkenazy for the Rachmaninov selections and the BBC Symphony with Hugh Wolf for the others, play in lush, gushing accompaniment. It's all appropriate for the temperament of the compositions, so I'm not complaining, you understand.

In the early days of digital recording, critics complained of too much brightness, hardness, and edginess in the sound. By the Nineties or so, however, record companies had gone out of their way to produce just the opposite, often erring in the direction of too soft a focus. I suppose the works on this disc, recorded between 1994-98, benefit psychologically from the big, warm sound Decca provides them, but the sonics aren't always as clear as an audiophile might like.

The Warsaw Concerto, as an example, receives a far more incisive and transparent rendering from Daniel Adni on EMI's "Classics for Pleasure" label, and Ashkenazy's own, earlier analogue discs with Andre Previn are more lucid (and more heartfelt) than these. Still, if one's audio system tends toward the upper frequencies, as many of today's movie-oriented speakers do, these performances might just compensate. Otherwise, this remains a good collection of mood music, better played and certainly better written than most of what passes for theme music in a lot of today's movies.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa