This Friday pianist Andrew von Oeyen will make his debut on the Warner Classics label with a Franco-American concerto album. The order of the selections will be Camille Saint-Saëns’ Opus 22 (second) concerto in G minor, Maurice Ravel’s three-movement concerto in G major, and the one-movement piece that George Gershwin called “Second Rhapsody.”
The album also includes an “encore” track, von Oeyen’s own transcription of the “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs. As usual, Amazon.com is currently processing pre-orders for this release….what is important about this album is that von Oeyen, working in partnership with Emmanuel Villaume conducting the Prague Philharmonia (also known and the PKF, which abbreviates the Czech version of the ensemble’s name), always seems to know how to take each of these three concertos on its respective composer’s own terms.
The Saint-Saëns concerto certainly offers up an abundance of virtuosity grounded in nineteenth-century practices; but it also opens with what amounts to a nineteenth-century reflection on the sort of prelude that might have been written by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Ravel concerto, on the other hand, bids a fond farewell to just about the entire legacy of nineteenth-century practices.
However, it does so with both wit and accessibility, perhaps even deliberately reflecting the opinion that listeners occasionally deserve a break from the disruptions of Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, however significant those disruptions may have been to those encountering them for the first time…Von Oeyen’s performance of Gershwin’s “Second Rhapsody” is based on the original 1931 score…The result is that this new recording may be one of the first efforts to cast “Second Rhapsody” in the favorable light it deserves, providing all of us with a new source of Gershwin’s music for piano and orchestra whose listening pleasures will not be contaminated by United Airlines!