Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Victor Sangiorgio (piano)/ Martin Yates (conductor)
TPT: 69’ 51”
reviewed by Neville Cohn
This fascinating compact disc offers three world premiere recordings, all by Benjamin Godard. And not before time. The other day, I did an impromptu poll asking numbers of concertgoers who Godard was. Very few had heard of him and fewer still could relate his name to any of his music, with two citing Berceuse de Jocelyn as the only work of his they could call to mind. More’s the pity because Godard was a prolific composer, producing, inter alia, eight operas (including Jocelyn), five symphonies and many songs.
For this unveiling for the first time on CD of Godard’s Piano Concerto No 1, it was an inspiration to engage Victor Sangiorgio to feature as soloist. From first note to last, he shapes to the demands of the work like fine French champagne to a goblet. Lightness of touch, fingers which know few fears and an ability to focus on fine detail without losing sight of the grand sweep of the concerto, make this recording a first rate listening experience, not least for Martin Yates’ masterly direction of an on-form Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
In the opening movement, the music oscillates between powerfully assertive, tonally muscular moments and introspective murmurings. Darting figurations and elfin flourishes delight the ear in the scherzo. And how lyrically Sangiorgio negotiates the third movement, its introspective measures gauged to a nicety. The finale with its rippling arabesques and emphatic rhythms holds the attention totally. Throughout, the soloist responds to the score with an impeccable sense of style.
While Godard’s Introduction and Allegro is perhaps of lesser quality than the concerto, it is presented with such high musicianship that, at least for the duration of the piece, the music sounds rather better than it, in fact, is. It’s musical persuasion at its most eloquent. The Allegro is musical froth and bubble that doesn’t carry any grand message but prattles engagingly on.