Search - Frederic Chopin, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Hector Berlioz :: Masters of the French Piano Tradition

Masters of the French Piano Tradition
Frederic Chopin, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Hector Berlioz
Masters of the French Piano Tradition
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Classical


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Major Historical Reissue for Piano Buffs
Doug - Haydn Fan | California | 07/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In tribute to this year's remarkable Tour de France, and especially it's mountain stages in the Alps, I thought I'd review this wonderful CD of great French pianists. Arbiter here continues it's marvelous catalogue with yet another absolutely stunning chef d'ouerve. In this case the piano playing of the truly legendary Francis Plante is highlighted, with several additional rarities added, including a Saint-Saens and an unpublished Debussy selection by Ravel's great friend, the soloist Ricardo Vines.

Francis Plante should need no introduction, as he was one of the greatest pianists of the 19th century. Born in 1839 he is one of the oldest great painists to make recordings. Unfortunately, his late recordings, made like Adelina Patti's with the mountain coming to Mohammed, in his case with the recording engineers treking up the Pyrennes to his private estate, are rare and little known. Unlike Patti his name was largely fogotten by the general public - or at least the non-French public - when these recordings were made. Yet we are ever so lucky someone did appreciate what he represented and made the enormous effort to record his playing for posterity.

Growing up in the age of Liszt, Plante was universally accepted as one of the greatest of all French pianists of that golden age for piano playing. Indeed, at the height of the 19th century there were over 20,000 piano teachers in Paris alone - which explains the keenest of the competition as well as the degree of sophistication of the audiences. A friend of such musical lumianaries as Rossini, Plante knew almost all the great French composers. Plante's very long career was an uninterrupted series of successes, and he was noted for his unbridled energy and famous 'floating touch', a way he had of using the pedal to seemingly lift the notes in a sort of state of suspension over the leyboard. His first hand - literally! - experiences playing alongside not only Liszt and his students, but also with countless other musicians of the second half of the century gives his recordings an especially rarefied provenience as a sytlist guide to 19th century traditions.

Plante's recordings were made using the new electrical system, and you can actually see Plante in action on Youtube, an energetic ocotgenarian whose vitality - famed throughout his life - is captured in his playing.
The playing itself, while rather strange by today's standards in this repetoire in places, is never less than convincingly alert, displaying the remarkable longevity some of these great pianists maintain well beyond their seventies.

Arbiter includes a wealth of notes, and deserves highest marks for once again returning Plante's graceful and elegant panache at the keyboard to the listings.

Note: All but two of the recordings use the elctrical process, and can be listened to without too much indulgence by modern listeners willing to make some streching. The two acoustics, by Saint-Saens and Diemer, will be extremely distant in sound with a great deal of surface noise. However, after trying those the rest will sound all the better!"