Search - George Antheil, Aaron Copland, Arthur Honegger :: Piano Concertos of the 1920s

Piano Concertos of the 1920s
George Antheil, Aaron Copland, Arthur Honegger
Piano Concertos of the 1920s
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1

Pianist Michael Rische has been heard regularly in the great concert halls at home and abroad since 1970. His numerous CDs have given him an international reputation, and his interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and...  more »


Larger Image
Listen to Samples

CD Details


Album Description
Pianist Michael Rische has been heard regularly in the great concert halls at home and abroad since 1970. His numerous CDs have given him an international reputation, and his interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Ravel have been rated as being of unusually high quality. Particularly since his discovery of the piano concertos by Erwin Schulhoff and George Antheil (first performance on March 5, 2001 in London), Michael Rische is seen as a prominent advocate for that 20th century music in which classical music and jazz come together. The works on this album reflect the unique cross-fertilization of jazz and classical traditions in the 1920s, both in Europe and America, best-known today from the works of George Gershwin.

CD Reviews

Le hot jazz--Real Hot
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 03/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If this album were a movie, I guess it would be called a "high concept" flick. And the concept is a good and interesting one. France in the 1920s was in love with "le hot jazz," and all of the works on this CD have a French connection, either because the composer studied in France, worked in France--or was French. Odd-concerto-out is Aaron Copland's since it was written in 1926, after his return to America from studies with Boulanger in France. It is the second of his "American" works, the first being "Music for the Theater," and while that work is a charming, lively piece, the Concerto is pretty much a bust and probably convinced Copland that he was on the wrong track with his jazz-influenced direction. He would start approaching America from a different musical direction soon, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of the other works on this disc, one is a certified masterwork, one an interesting dark horse, and one an attractive novelty whose only fault is to be too short (less than 11 minutes) ever to be programmed in concert. But then that's what CDs are all about. We can enjoy at home the wit and grace of Honegger's tiny Concertino, with its coolly patrician take on jazz. Honegger always has something interesting to say, and he says it memorably here.

The dark horse is George Antheil's Concerto No. 1, a piece that had to be tracked down via some skillful detective work. Apparently, this composition was mentioned in a Berlin press report of 1922 but was not even mentioned by Atheil in his autobiography of 1926. Was he trying to hide something? You be the judge. This is a wild and wooly piece that makes no bones about its obvious indebtedness--entirely to Stravinksy (Petruschka, The Rite of Spring, Ragtime, a few others maybe). It has a wah-wah jazz trumpet tune, ragtime rhythms, dance-band percussion riffs, but then it has serious modernist overtones too. Well, it's hard to describe, but it's a strangely appealing concoction.

Then there's the Ravel, one of the greatest concertos of the 20th century. In this work, Michael Rische is up against stiff competition as he is in no other of the pieces on this disc. So he obviously decided to do something different. True to the title of the CD, Rische and conductor Israel Yinon emphasize the jazz-mad Dionysian side of Ravel--and if you didn't know he had one, you should listen to this performance. The last movement gets a bit rough in spots, but that's because of the especially heady tempos and the impetuosity of the orchestral playing, which sounds like the product of a live performance, though this is a studio job. Rische's performance won't erase memories of famous recordings you've heard, but I think you will enjoy it.

The recordings, made at different times and in different places, are consistently fine, nicely ambient and yet with good definition too. This disc is a revelation."
A Great Collection
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 07/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first noticed this disc because of the world premiere of the Antheil Piano Concerto. In his book: Bad Boy of Music," Mr. Antheil mentions having written a piano concerto but provides no details about it. It required some detective work to locate the manuscript. The concerto is quite interesting and unorthodox, much like Antheil's "mechanique" driven music. It is in one movement and freely borrows from Stravinsky while also incorporating many jazz elements. Like Antheil's solo piano music of the period the concerto is characterized by drive and freedom of form. The music is appealing, thoughtful and fresh.

The Concertino of Arthur Honneger comes from 1924; the dialogue between piano and orchestra was influenced by the Brandenburg Concertos but the music, with its elements of blues, places it firmly in the 20th century. The instruments mesh well together and the overall sense is of a well composed and witty concerto.
A surprise for me was the Piano Concerto by Aaron Copland. The work dates from 1926 and was an attempt to create American music by using jazz elements. The concerto was regarded by critics as rhythmically complex, something close to the Rite of Spring and nothing short of noise. I think the opposite is true. The music is very moody and expressive, evocative of an American urban landscape. Listening to this music today I would describe it as a cross between Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, but I am only suggesting such a comparison to give an idea of what it sounds like: the music is pure Copland.

The most familiar concerto on the disc is the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, which receives an excellent performance. The concertos are all well recorded and are played by different orchestras linked by the pianist Michael Rische, who does a phenomenal job in all of them. Anyone interested in piano concertos of the 20th century will find this an irresistible collection. The price is also right.
A well-filled and intelligently conceived disc, at a bargain
Discophage | France | 03/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The same recording has previously been published by Arte Nova with a different cover, and I have reviewed it at length under two of its entries on Amazon (Piano Concertos of the Twenties; Piano Concertos of the 20s: Antheil, Copland, Honegger, Ravel [IMPORT]). I refer you to these reviews. It is a lengthy (70') and intelligently conceived program of (more or less) Jazz-inspired piano concertos, all composed in a same time-span (1922 to 1930) by French composers and American composers with strong French ties: Copland as a pupil of Nadia Boulanger and Antheil as the riot-stirring "Enfant terrible" of the Parisian scene between 1922 and 1927.

Antheil's 1st Piano Concerto is a real find. Despite (or because of) its numerous apparent quotations of other composers and compositions (I hear lots of Stravinsky, but also some Bloch, Ravel and even Ives and Orff - but much of the works I hear references to were actually composed later), it is very uniquely typical of Antheil in those early years, with its typical construction procedures of juxtaposition and succession of small passages of strong rhythmic and melodic flavour, with hardly any motivic development. It is brilliant, brash, colorful and immensely fun.

Honegger's short and rarely recorded Concertino is a neo-classical work with strong whiffs of Stravinsky in its first section but later on with snarling brass, march-like rhythms and a build-up of tension that are very typical of Honegger.

Ravel's Concerto needs no introduction, but Copland's might. Composed in 1926 and premiered by the composer under Koussevitzky in Boston in January 1927, it is Copland's attempt at creating an American vernacular musical language using Jazz. He didn't pursue and settled instead for another kind of vernacular that became his unique trademark - the epic and pastoral "prairie style". Yet the Concerto is a very enjoyable work, because its Jazz (heard mainly in the rambunctious second movement) is not of the watered-down Brodway/Gershwin type, but rather a unique case of Bartok meets West-Side Story. Indeed I hear in it striking echoes of Bartok's Second Piano Concerto, with the Jazz replacing the Hungarian folk-tunes. Interestingly, harbingers of the Copland-to-be can be heard in the first movement, alternating epic fanfares and more such pastoral episodes.

Rische/Sloane's reading will not erase memories of Copland's two recordings - one as conductor with Earl Wild in 1961 (Copland: Piano Concerto And Orchestra/Menotti: Concerto In F For Piano And Orchestra or Copland, Menotti: Piano Concertos), and three years later as the pianist, with Bernstein and New York (The Copland Collection: Early Orchestral Works, 1922-1935). There are spots in the first movement in which they are too solemn and pedestrian, and in the Jazzy second Rische is less muscular than Wild and a bit less idiomatic than Copland. But it is very serviceable nonetheles, and the orchestra has all the rambuctiousness and Jazzy drive required in the second movement. The Ravel gets a surprisingly good performance, dynamic and light-footed and very Gallic in Rische's relative dryness and refusal to "milk the cow" in the more lyrical and effusive passages. It also benefits from outstanding support from the Köln orchestra and Israel Yinon.

It also comes at a bargain price to make Naxos blush with shame and pale with fear.