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CLASSICAL  March 2007

CLASSICAL March 2007

Subject:

A Ludwig Thuille Symphony and Piano Concerto

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 26 Mar 2007 19:07:09 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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   Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907)
          Orchestral Works

Piano Concerto in D major (1886) [37:16]
Symphony in F major (1882) [41:27]

Oliver Triendl, piano
Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento
Alun Francis, conductor
Recorded June 2003/04
Released January 2006
CPO 777 008-2 [78:47]

The reviewer of this disc on the Classicstoday.com website states that
"Ludwig Thuille's music is worthless".  That's about the most ridiculous
assertion I've heard from a reviewer in many a year.  Yes, Thuille is
better known as a music professor than composer.  Yes, his works are
entirely derivative and often sound like Schumann with some Mozart,
Beethoven and Mendelssohn thrown into the pot.  And yes, if you can find
some emotional depth in Thuille's music, you deserve an all expense-paid
vacation to Tahiti.

But music can be very appealing even if it doesn't break new ground or
plumb the depth of the soul.  This is where Ludwig Thuille's compositions
reside.  His music flows in a most natural manner with a strong sense
of inevitability.  The melodies, although not among the most compelling,
are quite catchy and hold their attractiveness well after dozens of
listenings.  Further, the man was born to write for the piano and its
interaction with multiple instruments.

Speaking of the piano, Thuille's Piano Concerto in D major is a dandy
work that would easily win converts in the concert hall.  It is easy to
enjoy, yet does not wear out its welcome although I initially assumed
that a few hearings would leave me saturated.  Quite the opposite -
additional listenings have only raised my appreciation for the Piano
Concerto.

In the typical three-movement setting, the first five minutes of the 1st
Movement "Allegro con brio" well demonstrates the fluid nature of Thuille's
compositional style replete with a fine mix of tender passages and bravura
proclamations.  The melodic content of the 1st Movement, although not
original, is certainly pleasing to the ear and sticks in the memory bank.
However, it is the fluidity that most impresses and reminds me of the
typical Mozart piano concerto.

The most beautiful music on the program resides in the 2nd Movement
"Adagio sostenuto" with its confident primary theme highlighted by the
piano's gorgeous cantabile lines.  The movement is also the most overtly
romantic on the disc.  With the Schumannesque 3rd Movement "Allegro
vivace", Thuille offers an exuberant and hard-driving atmosphere mitigated
somewhat by a host of lyrical refrains.  I do have a couple of minor
quibbles; Thuille seems to have never met an arpeggio that he didn't
like, and his musical material isn't sufficiently extensive to warrant
the over ten minute length of each of the three movements.  But overall,
the Concerto in D major is a thoroughly enjoyable work deserving of
multiple recordings.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Piano Concerto largely apply to
Thuille's Symphony in F major as well.  However, the 2nd and 3rd Movements
present additional problems.  In the 2nd Movement "Largo maestoso", the
funeral-like march is routine in construction, and a few brass fanfares
give off a strong aroma of uninspired borrowings.  The 3rd Movement
"Tempo di Menuetto" has a couple of odd moments centering around the
transitions from the Scherzo to the Trio and back; the flow is quite
awkward (note track 6 at 2:55 and 4:25).  Not having the score in hand,
I can't be sure whether the problem rests with the composer or Alun
Francis.  However, knowing Francis to be a consummate professional, I
can't imagine that he would take natural transitions and modify them in
an incoherent fashion.

Concerning the performances, Francis and the Haydn Orchestra do a superb
job, working up a whirlwind of activity when necessary and bringing out
all the poignancy in the scores.  Pianist Oliver Triendl is also excellent
as he easily negotiates the most difficult passages and arpeggios while
offering highly fluid accounts.

Don's Conclusions: Not an essential disc, but one that should give
listeners many hours of pleasure.  I also have a Thuille disc of piano
quintets on ASV 1171 that I can recommend without any reservations; this
might be the best starting point for those new to Thuille's artistry.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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