Thursday, June 11, 2015

Carl Czerny Bel Canto Concertante - Unpretentious entertainment

Not all classical music scales the heights of artistic expression. Sometimes it's just meant to be entertaining -- like these virtuoso variations by Carl Czerny. These four works, written between 1828-1832, dazzle the ear with clever reworkings of some of the hottest tunes of the day.

The source material is musically appealing in its own right -- themes from Bellini's operas Norma and Il Pirata; motives from Auber's Fra Diavolo. The music from Pacini's opera Glie Arabi nelle Gallie may not be as familiar to modern audiences as Bellini's and Auber's but it's equally tuneful.

Czerny's goal isn't to plumb the depths of this material. Rather, the themes provide something familiar that the listener can hold onto as Czerny builds his variations around them: variations designed to show of the skill of the pianist to greatest effect.

Rosemary Tuck makes it all sound easy, running up and down the keyboard in a cascade of notes. At the same time, she makes sure the phrasing retains the lyrical nature of the themes.

These virtuoso variations have no pretensions -- they were written just to entertain, and that's exactly what they do. And sometimes, that's all I want out from a recording.

Carl Czerny: Bel Canto Concertante - Virtuoso Variations for Piano and Orchestra
Rosemary Tuck, piano; English Chamber Orchestra, Richard Bonynge, conductor
Naxos 8.573254

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