Milhaud: Complete Piano Concertos

COMPOSERS: Milhaud
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Milhaud
WORKS: Complete Piano Concertos
PERFORMER: Michael Korstick (piano); SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern/Alun Francis
CATALOGUE NO: 777 162-2

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I believe this is the first recording of the complete piano concertos on CD. This alone probably makes it a necessary buy for Milhaud fans. Michael Korstick seems to revel in the challenges the works present (Milhaud’s four other works for piano and orchestra are also included) and, apart from three moments when he spoils the flow by hurrying, he is with the orchestra in both letter and spirit. The recorded sound is perfectly acceptable; balance between soloist and orchestra is good.

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Beyond that, I find myself unable to think of much to say, so pole-axed am I by the clotted intransigence of the music itself. Saint-Saëns’s reaction to Milhaud’s polytonality (‘luckily there are still lunatic asylums in France’) seems at times almost polite. How could a highly trained composer, capable of writing a masterpiece like La création du monde, be so deafened by the self?imposed demands of polytonality that he failed to register the listener’s basic need for contrast and, above all, air? The perky little tune and jazzy or Brazilian rhythm are not enough to dispel the overall impression of relentless lumbering. Even Paul Collaer, the Belgian scholar and radio producer who did so much to promote Milhaud’s career, wrote of the ‘avalanches of unremitting sixteenth notes’ in the Fourth Concerto’s middle movement – and elsewhere.