P1262. ROBERT CASADESUS, w.Boulez Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Concerto #21 in C, K.467 (Mozart), Live Performance, 13 Jan., 1971; w.Rosbaud Cond. Southwest German Radio Symphony Orch.: Konzertstuck in f (Weber), recorded 1959. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-493. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Robert Casadesus was the quintessential French musician, a passionate perfectionist who carried the Gallic virtues of precision, clarity, and elegance into the mid-twentieth century as an embodiment of the living spirit of classicism - precision animated by passion, clarity attained through sensuous scintillance, and elegance as the expression of the most lucidly aware animation. Born in Paris to a distinguished family of musicians - his father and three uncles enjoyed careers as performers and composers - Robert took first prize for piano at the Paris Conservatoire at age 14. Studies with Louis Diémer - early enthusiast of the French clavicenistes, premiere soloist and dedicatée of Franck's ‘Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra’ - graced Casadesus with the mantle of the inheritor. In 1921 he married fellow Diémer pupil Gabrielle (Gaby) L'Hôte. The following year he earned Ravel's friendship with his performance of ‘Gaspard de la nuit’, which led to European tours with the composer and legendary soprano Madeleine Grey. ‘You are a composer’, Ravel wrote, ‘because you have the courage to play 'Gibet' as I imagined it, that is, as a slow piece...And virtuoso pianists do not want to play it like that. They double the tempo and make it much faster. That is why I think you are a composer’. Indeed, Casadesus' catalogue eventually embraced some 68 works, including seven symphonies, concerti for two and three pianos and orchestra, 27 chamber works, and 20 works for piano. It is music for connoisseurs, music of formal concision not devoid of passionate expression, but highly wrought, suggestive, and understated in, typically, lyrically attenuated slow movements, tender and strange, and conclusions of fastidious tumult. It is the antithesis of Mahler's confessional expansiveness, while Stravinsky's neo-Classical manner seems gimmicky and carnivalesque by comparison. Casadesus was a distinguished teacher, beginning his career as Professor of Piano at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau in 1921, and replacing Isidor Philipp as its head in 1935. But it is primarily as a touring pianist and recording artist that Casadesus is remembered, appearing throughout Europe and the United States over 2,000 times in a career spanning half a century, often in duo-piano recitals with his wife. His authoritative, exhilarating recordings of the Mozart piano concerti with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, the Beethoven violin sonatas and the Franck Sonata with Zino Francescatti, Franck's ‘Variations symphoniques’ and d'Indy's ‘Symphonie cévenole’ (Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français) with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the piano works of Ravel - to name but the most prominent - are among the very greatest.”
- Adrian Corleonis, allmusic.com
“’Audacity, innovation, creativity — that is what Pierre Boulez was for French music, which he helped shine everywhere in the world’.
Mr. Boulez belonged to an extraordinary generation of European composers who emerged in the postwar years while still in their 20s. They started a revolution in music, and Mr. Boulez was in the front ranks.
But his influence was equally large on the podium. In time he began giving ever more attention to conducting, where his keen ear and rhythmic incisiveness could produce a startling clarity. (There are countless stories of him detecting faulty intonation, say, from the third oboe in a complex piece.) He reached his peak as a conductor in the 1960s, when he began to appear with some of the world’s great orchestras, like the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. By the early ’70s, he had succeeded Leonard Bernstein as music director of the New York Philharmonic, an appointment that startled the music world and led to a fitful tenure. It was his reputation as an avant-garde composer and as a champion of new music that prompted his unexpected appointment in New York. After the initial shock at his arrival, there was hope that he might bring the orchestra into the 20th century and appeal to younger audiences. But his programming often met with hostility in New York, and he left quietly six years later. ‘I had to learn about that music, to find out how it was made’, he once told OPERA NEWS. ‘It was a revelation - a music for our time, a language with unlimited possibilities. No other language was possible. It was the most radical revolution since Monteverdi. Suddenly, all our familiar notions were abolished. Music moved out of the world of Newton and into the world of Einstein’. To start on this route, he took lessons in 1945-46 with René Leibowitz, a Schönbergian who had settled in Paris. Soon he was integrating what had been separate paths of development in the music of the previous 40 years: Schönberg’s serialism, Stravinsky’s rhythmic innovations and Messiaen’s enlarged notion of mode. As Mr. Boulez saw it, all these composers had failed to pursue their most radical impulses, and it fell to a new generation - specifically, to him - to pick up the torch.
‘He never ceased to think about subjects in relation to one another; he made painting, poetry, architecture, cinema and music communicate with each other, always in the service of a more humane society’, the office of President François Hollande said in a statement. Even so, the achievements embodied in his published works and recordings are formidable, and his influence was incalculable. The tasks he took on were heroic: to continue the great adventure of musical modernism, and to carry with him the great musical institutions and the widest possible audience.”
- Paul Griffiths, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 Jan., 2016