Look Ma, Four Hands!

Elizabeth Buccheri – Richard Boldrey

Romantic Music for Piano Four-Hands

Cedille Records CDR 7002

 

When one thinks of great nineteenth century repertoire for piano four-hands, the first composer likely to come to mind is Franz Schubert. Remember Robert Schumann’s review of his four-hand sonatas – describing their “heavenly length?” While certainly not a household name like Schubert, pianists Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey make a good case for the pieces of French composer Georges Onslow (1784-1853). Both of his sonatas for four hands are presented here. While Onslow’s harmonic language is merely serviceable early Romanticism, he excels at the registral choreography necessary for successful pieces in this genre. In addition, the sonatas are dramatically very well-shaped.

Three of Max Reger’s bombastic six Burlesques (Op. 58) are given a zesty reading by the pianists. The duo is even more impressive when given better pieces with which to work, such as Franz Liszt’s finger-popping Grand Valse di Bravura and Edvard Grieg’s supple Norwegian Dances (op.35). Buccheri and Boldrey included only two of the latter, leaving one wishing for the whole set.

A curiosity that alternately intrigues and repels is Richard Wagner’s Polonaise, which, although played with technical command and hefty enthusiasm, still sounds like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Far better is the Polonaise from Mily Balakirev’s Suite for Piano, which matches muscular rhythmic articulations with suavely-phrased, Eastern European-inflected melodies. The suite’s Chansonette is considerably charming as well – a bit reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov in its harmonic shadings. The work is rounded out with a thrilling Scherzo.

Buccheri and Boldrey are a well=matched pair, given to ardent interpretations; I’d greatly value hearing them tackle the Schubert sonatas next!

 

 Romantic Music for Piano Four-hands

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