Théodore Dubois was a prominent French composer, organist, theorist, and teacher in the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but he is perhaps better remembered for a monumental deficit in judgment than for his music itself. He was a staunch conservative, and as director of the Paris Conservatoire, he refused to award the Prix to Rome to Maurice Ravel in 1905.
Each of the volumes in the ‘Portraits’ series is devoted to a French composer who has been unjustly neglected, and takes a general look at that composer’s output through performances by many talented artists. The texts (French/English) are completed by varied and hitherto unpublished iconography. Théodore Dubois is the perfect example of the ‘official’ composer during the time of French Romanticism: he successively was a Prix de Rome recipient (1861), organist at the Madeleine (1877), an academician (1894), and Director of the Conservatoire (1896) where he had been teaching since 1871. However, so much injustice as well as honour was heaped upon his music − accused of academic rigidity − that it is important to rehear it to be in a better position to judge its real interest value.
The wonderful French pianist Cédric Tiberghien has made several admired recital and chamber recordings. Now he joins the impressive roster of pianists who have contributed to Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series with Volume 60: Théodore Dubois. Three works by this French composer are included here, and they present a captivating panorama of the evolution of Dubois’ style over some forty years: the Concerto-capriccioso of 1876 seems like a preliminary study in the style of such composers as Weber and Mendelssohn, whereas the highly Romantic Concerto in F minor (1897) is reminiscent of Saint-Saëns. The completely unknown Suite for piano and strings (1917), for its part, resembles a neoclassical pastiche.
Théodore Dubois was a prominent French composer, organist, theorist, and teacher in the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but he is perhaps better remembered for a monumental deficit in judgment than for his music itself. He was a staunch conservative, and as director of the Paris Conservatoire, he refused to award the Prix to Rome to Maurice Ravel in 1905; the outpouring of consternation among the public and among musicians led him to resign his position.
Known as the ‘First Lady of the organ’, Marie-Claire Alain was a strikingly mature, creative and intuitive artist. Spanning four centuries of music, from Baroque masterpieces by the likes of Couperin and Grigny, through cornerstones of the French organ repertoire by Widor, Vierne and Messiaen, to two discs of works by her brother Jehan, this collection is testament to her vast and impressively wide-ranging recording legacy.
The concept of The Romantic Piano Concerto series was born at a lunch meeting between Hyperion and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra sometime in 1990. A few months later tentative plans had been made for three recordings, and the first volume, of concertos by Moszkowski and Paderewski, was recorded in June 1991. In our wildest dreams, none of us involved then could ever have imagined that the series would still be going strong twenty years later, and with fifty volumes to its credit.