Pianist Alain Lefèvre has taken on the musicological duties of cataloging the works of Quebec composer André Mathieu. As part of his mission of discovery, he also plans on performing and publishing what he can in order to raise greater awareness of Mathieu. This is his third album to feature Mathieu, and as on his concerto disc, once again one of the companion works is by Gershwin, who had a noticeable influence on the Canadian composer. In between Mathieu's and Gershwin's rhapsodies in this concert recording is Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Rachmaninov seems to have had an even greater influence on Mathieu's piece than Gershwin. Mathieu's Rhapsodie romantique is very much a contrast to what was considered the height of "serious" music in 1958. It is often as sweeping and passionate as the Rachmaninov, full of surging drama and energetic animation, but less dour. The appealing melodies are not always long-lived; they seem to shift and change frequently, and only a couple return in immediately recognizable forms that last longer than a couple of minutes. Here and in the Rachmaninov, Lefèvre is technically adept and emotionally mature, so that while it is very romantic, the music is very well performed and never takes a back seat to theatrics. Matthias Bamert also makes sure the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal delivers a full and rich, but precise, sound that matches Lefèvre in the Mathieu, but takes much more of an accompaniment role to the piano in the Rachmaninov. In the Gershwin, Lefèvre seems more deliberate in his pacing and articulation than Bamert and the Orchestre want to be, and everyone sounds as if they are trying to make it fit better in terms of expression with the Mathieu and Rachmaninov, so it's missing a degree of upbeat attitude and infectiousness. Regardless, the Rachmaninov and Gershwin are excellent choices of complementary pieces for the Mathieu Rhapsody and set it off very favorably.
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AllMusic Review by Patsy Morita
|Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Introduction and 24 Variations), for piano & orchestra in A minor, Op. 43|