Liszt • Reber • Berlioz
This period-instrument orchestra offers an intriguing snapshot in time of what Parisian concert-goers around 1850 would have been able to hear. When repertory remains obscure, however, even in today’s voracious recording era, there is often good reason. Napoléon-Henri Reber’s Fourth Symphony, premiered in 1857, displays expert absorption of its influences (Mendelssohn, Weber, Berlioz) and little more than that. This classy performance makes an engaging case for an unremarkable work, after which the opening bars of Berlioz’s Rêverie et caprice for violin and orchestra (re-casting an unused aria from Benvenuto Cellini) are the aural counterpart of pure oxygen. Chamayou’s way with Liszt’s First Concerto, too, is worth the wait. His choice of period piano, besides a surprising degree of power and punch, also has a beautiful upper-register quality that seems to overlay the whole work with a silvery sheen. Even with Chamayou at full double-octave power, and the orchestra excitingly matching him, the music seems remarkably light on its feet: the Allegretto vivace scherzo section scintillates, and throughout, there’s a mesmerising and very Lisztian sense of the entire Concerto amounting to a written-out piano improvisation with the orchestra joining in. In Martha Argerich’s classic recording of more than 40 years ago, her alchemical musicianship alighted on this approach. Chamayou brilliantly confirms that this is the way to go.