ANTHEIL: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1. COPLAND: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. HONEGGER: Concertino for Piano and Orchestra. RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G.
Michael Rische, pianist; Bamberg Symphony Orch/Christoph Poppen, cond. (Antheil); WDR Symphony Orch/Steven Sloane, cond. (Honegger/Copland); Israel Yinon, cond. (Ravel)
ARTE NOVA ANO 910140 (B)(DDD) TT: 70:03
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SCHULHOFF: Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra. ANTHEIL: A Jazz Symphony. GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F.
Michael Rische, pianist; WDR Symphony Orch/Gunther Schuller, cond. (Schulhoff); Berlin Radio Symphony Orch/Wayne Marshall, cond.
ARTE NOVA ANO 510510 (B) (DDD) TT: 64:23
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Two fascinating CDs offering superlative performances, fine sonics and budget price! Greatest interest for me is inclusion of the premiere recording of George Antheil's Piano Concerto No. 1, a brilliant highly percussive jazzy 20-minute work with a few gentle interludes separating wild bursts of audacious interplay between soloist and orchestra. Written in 1922, the score was lost until the enterprising pianist Michael Rische tracked it down and gave the premiere March 5, 2001 in London. It's far more interesting than Aaron Copland's sole piano concerto written in 1926, one of the first "classical" works to include jazz elements. Honegger's delightful Concertino dates from 1924; some collectors may recall it from a rare early Columbia recording featuring Oscar Levant with a studio orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner. Scoring of Ernest Schulhoff's concerto, composed a year before Honegger's Concertino, includes 18 different percussion instruments, "laughing devil," car horn, torpedo siren and an anvil. Surprising that Schulhoff apparently never met Antheil, as both were living in Berlin at the time and had the same imaginative approach to composing. Schulhoff's concerto opens with impressionistic gentleness and ends with "Allegro alla Jazz. Alla zingaresca....Prestissimo," a lot of fun to listen to although hardly a masterpiece.

Antheil's A Jazz Symphony was written for Paul Whitemen's second "Experiment in Modern Music" and had its premiere in a Carnegie Hall concert in 1927. It's a stunning work, jazzy to the extreme, a delight to hear. This fine new recording is particularly welcome as a previous version on Music Masters has been deleted (see REVIEW)—I haven't heard Michael Tilson Thomas's RCA recording. The Gershwin and Ravel concertos also receive superlative performances. Micael Rische is a name new to me but apparently the German-born pianist has a flourishing European career, well-deserved on the basis of what is heard on these fine new CDs. The three orchestras and four conductors do their tasks well, and the sound is excellent. Recommended!

R.E.B. (January 2006)