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Debussy, Fauré & Ravel: Works for Piano & Orchestra

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 258
Release Date: 09/01/2015
Number of Discs: 1
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Debussy – Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra
Faure – Ballade for Piano and Orchestra Op. 19
Ravel – Piano Concerto in G.
Valerie Tryon, piano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Jac Van Steen

With this new release, SOMM continues its series with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the remarkable pianist Valerie Tryon. Their close and enjoyable collaboration has already enriched the SOMM catalogue with two previous recordings, both warmly received: Granados’  Nights in the Gardens of Spain, César Franck’s Symphonic Variations and Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica (SOMMCD 250) followed by Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto, Richard Strauss’ Burlesque and Dohnanyi’s Variations on a Nursery Theme  (SOMMCD 253).

Valerie Tryon’s performance is as convincing as any you’ll hear, and in all three works she receives excellent, alert backing from Jac van Steen’s Royal Philharmonic. It’s always a pleasure to come across great performances from artists who deserve to be better known. Tryon, UK born but long resident in Canada, made this disc when she was 78. She’s on superb form, her playing in these three youthful works full of sparky wit.”  – The Arts Desk, 07/02/15

Her articulation remains clear and precise, her approach lyrical and expressive. I very much hope this will not be the last of Valerie Tryon’s recordings.”  – Bryce Morrison, Gramophone, Oct 2014

“This is certainly a most enjoyable and well characterised account of music that deserves greater currency. Throughout, the sound quality is excellent in its balance and also faithful to the unencumbered clarity of Henry Wood Hall.” – IRR, Dec 2014

SOMM’s new release brings together three French works for piano and orchestra. Debussy was in his late twenties when he began work on his Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra in October 1889. Although he made revisions to the score, he forbade its performance or publication which may explain why this work with its beautiful, shimmering textures has fallen into obscurity. The first performance was given a year and a half after Debussy’s death in November 1919 in London’s Queen’s Hall by Alfred Cortot and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and it has been rarely performed ever since. The work is in two movements, the second of which can be divided into two different, slow and fast, movements more akin to the traditional concerto form than the traditional one-movement fantasia.

Fauré’s Ballade for solo piano Op. 19 is another work which quite inexplicably is rarely heard, considering the quality of the music. Fauré worked on his Ballade in the late 1870s and was thirty-two when it was published with a dedication to Saint-Saëns in 1877. A few years later he played it for Franz Liszt who may have suggested adding orchestral accompaniment, which Fauré added in 1881. Reminiscent of his Nocturnes and Barcarolles, the whole work has a feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness.

Ravel undertook a successful four-month tour of North America in 1928 appearing as soloist and conductor. He was greatly influenced by the music he heard there, particularly Negro spirituals and that newest form, jazz. On his return to Europe he began work on his Piano Concerto in G major in 1929. Ravel’s concerto is one of the major jazz inspired works to come out of that era. He stated himself that it took two years of hard work to complete the composition, eventually choosing Marguerite Long as soloist for the première which he conducted in January 1932.

Interesting to note that Valerie Tryon had studied with Jacques Février in Paris who remembered, “When Marguerite Long was learning the Concerto I accompanied her on the second piano. Ravel was behind me and I still remember exactly what he asked of her.”

Valerie Tryon‘s career as a concert pianist began while she was still a child. Before she was twelve she had broadcast for the BBC and she was one of the youngest students ever to be admitted to the Royal Academy of Music where she received the highest award in piano playing and a bursary which took her to Paris for study with Jacques Février.

It was Février’s father who had been a colleague of Ravel at the Conservatoire in Fauré’s composition class and Jacques studied and played Ravel’s works with the composer throughout his life. Tryon has said that Février “had definite ideas as to how this repertoire should be interpreted. He was quite strict on matters of tempo and mood, and he made me change a number of interpretations I brought to him…  Février also taught me the French jeu perlé playing”.

Tryon’s career has extended from England where she has played with many of the leading orchestras and conductors, to North America where she has appeared in such cities as Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Her repertoire is enormous and ranges from Bach to contemporary composers. It includes more than sixty concertos and a vast amount of chamber music. Among British composers, both the late Alun Hoddinott and John McCabe have dedicated works to her. Valerie Tryon has been awarded several distinctions for her services to music. She was an early recipient of the Harriet Cohen Medal. More recently the Liszt Memorial Medal was bestowed on her by the Hungarian Minister of Culture in recognition of her lifelong promotion of the music of Franz Liszt.

Jac van Steen was born in The Netherlands and studied orchestral and choral conducting at the Brabants Conservatory of Music. Since participating, in 1985, in the BBC Conductors’ Seminar led by Sir Edward Downes, he has enjoyed a very busy career as conductor of major orchestras in The Netherlands,  United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. These have included the posts of Music Director and Principal Conductor of the National Ballet of the Netherlands, the orchestras of Bochum and Nuremberg, the Staatskapelle, Weimar, the Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra in Dortmund,  the post, for several years, of Principal Guest conductor at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and from 2013, the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Last year he was appointed Principal Guest conductor of the Ulster Orchestra.

van Steen is also Professor of Conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, where he has recently developed his brainchild: the National masters for Orchestral Conducting, which gives young student conductors the chance to work with the best Dutch Orchestras. He also works regularly with the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham’s School of Music as well as the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music, London and the City of Birmingham Youth Orchestra.

On This Recording

  1. Fantaisie: I. Andante ma non troppo – Allegro giusto
  2. Fantaisie: II. Lento e molto espressivo
  3. Fantaisie: III. Allegro molto
  4. Ballade: Ballade in F-Sharp Major, Op. 19 (version for piano and orchestra)
  5. Piano Concerto: I. Allegramente
  6. Piano Concerto: II. Adagio assai
  7. Piano Concerto: III. Presto