Dvor‡k, Schoenfield

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Schoenfield
LABELS: Athene Minerva
WORKS: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Andreas Boyde (piano); Freiburg PO/ Johannes Fritzsch, Dresden SO/Jonathan Nott
CATALOGUE NO: ATH CD 21
This disc rather oddly yokes together public performances of two very different works: Dvorák’s first completed concerto, awkwardly written for the piano but full of good things; and the Four Parables by the American Paul Schoenfield (born 1947), inspired by some serious real-life situations, but couched in an entertainingly eclectic mixture of musical styles, including some rip-roaring jazz. The young German pianist Andreas Boyde opts for the original solo part of the Dvorák, rather than Vilém Kurz’s flashier recasting of it, and succeeds in making it sound perfectly fluent and idiomatic. He is equally the master of Schoenfield’s virtuoso keyboard writing, and shows considerable flair for the jazz idioms. The orchestral support is good, from both the Freiburg Philharmonic and the specially assembled Dresden orchestra. The recordings (by two German radio stations) both go in close and hard on the piano, creating a sometimes unequal and sometimes unnatural balance with the orchestra.

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The chief competition in the Dvorák comes from the magisterial Rudolf Firkusný on RCA (not currently available): he shows greater subtlety of lyrical expression without Boyde’s wide fluctuations of tempo, and is blessed with more ingratiating piano sound in a more natural acoustic. There is also competition in the Parables: on an all-Schoenfield disc on Argo, Jeffrey Kahane is at least as fleet-fingered as Boyde, and the New World Symphony under John Nelson is both more idiomatically jazzy and better balanced. But Boyde’s disc shows some very impressive pianism under what seem to be genuine concert conditions: he is undoubtedly an artist to watch out for. Anthony Burton