%> Robert Casadesus complete Columbia Recordings

SONY 19075853652 ( 65 disks)

Robert Casadesus was a grand elegant master of the piano. Born in Paris in 1899, he died there in 1972. After studies at the Paris Conservatory, he won several major prizes and he began his amazing career during which he would give at least 2,000 concerts in Europe and America. He represented the essence of French music in particular; he was a close friend of Ravel, who thought Casadesus was the perfect interpreter of his music. Casadesus also was a favorite with major conductors and distinguished teacher, In 1921 he married a fellow student, Gaby, who also was an accomplished pianist. They had three children, Jean, ,Guy and Therese. Jean was a fine pianist and often performed concertos for three pianos with his parents. Tragically, in 1972 Jean died in a car accident in Canada.

Robert was a prolific composer writing many concertos for piano, violin and cello, seven symphonies, much chamber music and music for solo piano. His last composition, the Symphony no. 7, "Israel," was a tribute to the people of Israel, dedicated to his frequent collaborator George Szell ; Szell died in the year the work was completed, 1970, and it was not premiered until shortly after Casadesus' death in 1972. It is virtually unknown today. Today Casadesus' music is seldom performed and there are few recordings. This new set contains a number of his works including for solo piano (Sonata No. 4, Etudes), Violin Sonata No, 2 and Homage a Chausson (both with Zino Francescatti), Nonet for Piano and String and Wind Quartets, Sextet for Winds, Concerto for Three Pianos and Strings (two recordings), and Piano Concerto No. 2 written for Dimitri Mitropoulos.

Casadesus will be remembered for his superb recordings and fortunately he made many of them, all of the Columbia recordings to be found in this new set, some of the earlier ones on CD for the first time. . On line you will be able to find a complete listing of contents. Of major interest are the Ravel recordings; he was a close friend of the composer and Ravel felt he was the ideal interpreter. He made two recordings of the Concerto for Left Hand; it seems odd that Ravel's famous Piano Concerto in G was not recorded although doubtless Casadesus performed it often. In addition to Ravel's complete works for piano (sometimes recorded twice), we also have virtually all of Debussy;s solo piano music, along with music of other French composers. All of Schumann's major works re here as well as sonatas of Beethoven (7 of them), Mozart, and Schubert,and Chopin. The pianist's only venture outside standard repertory was Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion which he recorded with Gaby and conductor Jean-Claude Casadesus (no relation).

Casadesus was a favorite soloist with many conductors particularly Eugene Ormandy and George Szell. There were plans for him to record all of Beethoven's concertos with Eduard van Beinum in Amsterdam, and in 1959 they completed Nos. 1 and 4; Beinum's illness made it impossible for the series to continue (he died later that year), but Casaadesus did record Concerto No. 5 with the ACO directed by Hans Rosband (not in this set). He collaborated often with Zino Francescatti; their recordings include all of the sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms. Mozart was a specialty of Casadesus, and he recorded 11 concertos with George Szell. Also there are rare performances of Concerto No 27 with Sir John Barbirolli (1942) and Concerto No. 21 (1949) with Charles Munch, both with the New York Philharmonic.

We also have many disks of Beethoven and Mozart sonatas, Chopin, Schumann, Scaarlatti and many others. Treasures abound in this magnificent display of elegant pianistic artistry. The price is reasonable when one considers that there are 65 CDs and they are presented in style. A 190-page handsome booklet contains complete recording information, dates of original release and many photos. This is an essential set in any serious collection.Keep in mind that here we have only the Columbia recordings. If you check on the internet, you'll find many other live and commercial recordings, also worthy of consideration,

Many years ago I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Casadesus when he appeared with the Baltimore Symphony in 1958 under then conductor Massimo Freccia who led the orchestra 1952 - 1959. Casadesus was very kind and friendly and a delightful conversationalist. I was just then starting my public radio announcing career, and asked him about the pronunciation of his name; as often announcers Americanize it instead of the French pronunciation. He laughed and said, "whatever you say is just fine!" It was so pleasant to be talking with one of the world's leading musical giants and having him expressing interest in what I was doing. I told him on my radio program I often played his Ormandy recording of D;Indy's French Mountain Air Symphony, and that seemed to please him. With the BSO he played brilliant performances of Franck's Symphonic Variations and Weber's Konzertstück It was such a pleasure to meet this fine artist!

R.E.B. (July 2019)