Florian Uhlig’s performance of Piano Conceros by Francaix and Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Francaix,Ravel
LABELS: SWR
ALBUM TITLE: Françaix * Ravel
WORKS: Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Tailleferre: Ballade; Nadia Boulanger: Fantaisie; Françaix: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Florian Uhlig (piano), Deutsche Radio Philharmonie/Pablo González
CATALOGUE NO: SWR19027CD

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This is a fascinating disc of French works for piano and orchestra from Florian Uhlig. The headline work is Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand, but it is the pieces by Nadia Boulanger and Germaine Tailleferre that steal the limelight. Boulanger’s Fantaisie (variée) (1912) is inevitably an early work, for she stopped composing after the death of her younger sister, Lili. Closer in spirit to Massenet or Saint-Saëns than the impressionists, with occasional bursts of primitivist brass and ear-caressing touches of exoticism, there is no sign of immaturity in this absorbing piece of late Romanticism.

The extraordinary disembodied opening of Tailleferre’s Ballade (1920–22) is a world away from her contemporaneous larks with Les Six, her neo-classical spirit emerging much later in the piece. This nuanced and devoted performance from Uhlig and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie under Pablo González provides yet more confirmation the relative scarcity of Tailleferre’s music in concert programmes compared to Poulenc, Milhaud or Honegger is down to chauvinism.

Depending on your perspective, the Concerto by Françaix is either a delightful Gallic romp or a vapid soufflé. Regardless, Uhlig is a fine advocate, nimbly frollicking through the outer movements and lovingly sustaining the Andante. The Ravel concerto has bags of character, with some wonderfully wheezy lower reeds. There could be greater clarity to some of the fingerwork in the opening solo, but there is a great sweep, Uhlig and González masterfully pacing every ebb and flow. The disc’s value comes, though, from the excellent advocacy of Boulanger and Tailleferre.

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Christopher Dingle