ARTHUR de GREEF PIANO CONCERTI Piano Concerto 1 in C minor Piano Concerto 2 in B flat minor
The de Greef piano concerti are a glance backwards in time. The first concerto, composed in 1914, is reminiscent of Camille Saint-Saens with elements of Grieg and César Franck and a soupçon of Mendelssohn. It is a lovely work that I suspect would be performed today had it been written a generation or two earlier by someone known primarily as a composer.
The first movement, Moderato, begins with a gentle and melodic dialogue between piano and orchestra that is immediately appealing and makes one want to hear more. What follows does not disappoint. The Scherzo begins very much in the style of Saint-Saens' G minor concerto but quickly evolves into a more personal and somewhat more modern style. It is really a first rate scherzo movement.
Grieg's influence on the de Greef piano concerti comes to the fore in the Andante. It is not derivative, but shares a quality with the Grieg concerto that is most pleasing, a perfectly beautiful slow movement. And the finale, once more firmly on French soil, brings the work to a very satisfying close.
Of the two de Greef piano concerti, the second which dates from 1930 is the more original. It is a somber work drawing on the influence of Franck and, interestingly, a bit of Rachmaninov. The first movement, Angoisse - Agitato, is intensely dramatic. There is suffering, there is agitation, and sadness. It tells a passionate love story I was eager to hear from the first notes, and at the end very glad I did.
The second movement, Separation - Lento ma non troppo, is full of longing and resignation. This is gorgeous music with subtle hints of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and even Wagner. And as with the slow movement of Rach2, I am always tempted not to go on to the final movement because this one ends so peacefully and with such a delicious tinge of melancholy.
I regret to say the final, uplifting movement, unlike the last movement of Rach2, does not awaken me to even greater delights. It is a fine movement, but not of the caliber of the first two which are really wonderful and require no qualification at all. I confess I have heard this concerto through only thrice at this writing. I will give it several more hearings to see if the the finale grows on me. I had (still do, truth be told) a similar experience with Beethoven' 3rd and 6th symphonies, not really wanting to hear what comes after the exquisite slow movements which I loved so much as to make it impossible to appreciate fairly what followed.
Both concerti are well crafted works from beginning to end. The writing for the piano is very skillful, and while virtuosic at times it is never gratuitously so. The de Greef piano concerti fill a real void in the concerto repertoire and deserve a place in the heavily Slavo-Teutonic dominated world of the piano concerto.
The final two works are interesting only in that de Greef composed them.
Piano Concerto 1 in C minor (1914) i Moderato - ii Scherzo - iii Andante - iv Finale: Animato Andre De Groote contemporary Belgian pianist Frederic Devreese conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Piano Concerto 2 in B♭ minor (1930) i Angoisse (Agitato) - ii Separation (Lento ma non troppo) - iii Sursum Corda! Andre De Groote contemporary Belgian pianist Frederic Devreese conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Piano Concerto 3 "Concertino" (1932) Yvon van den Berge Belgian Pianist Daniel Sternefeldt conducting the Orchestra of the Belgian Radio
Fantasy on Flemish Folk Songs for Piano and Orchestra, Op 3 (1892) Stefan Poelmans Belgian Pianist Silveer van den Broeck conducting the Flemish Radio and Television Orchestra
Here is my new book, a murder mystery with a musical polemic