Now that Ive finished with the Scarlatti sonatas, I figured it was about time that I relisten to one of my other gargantuan boxes o goodies to see if what I heard the first time through still holds up. What better choice than my beloved (and now hard-to-find and accordingly expensive) Robert Casadesus Edition? (Whod a thunk: CDs as a potential investment?) Anyway, I regularly pull out and spin some of the recordings the Mozart piano concertos, LvB violin sonatas, Ravel solo music, and Faure violin sonatas but many of the other discs just sit in the long box without an airing. So that seemed a good place to start this occasional series of posts. So many discs (29 in all) gave me a variety of choices. I opted for one Ive not heard since the first time around: a collection of works for piano and orchestra. The works are Liszts Second Piano Concerto, Webers Konzertstück, Saint-Saens Fourth Piano Concerto, and Faures Ballade for Piano and Orchestra. Yes, this would do nicely. I listened in order, so that means Liszt first. Truth to tell, Casadesus style and Liszts writing dont really make an ideal pairing. Casadesus, technically capable as he was, was more about taste and restraint and solid musical judgment and less about virtuosic flash. But even so, this is a surprisingly good recording. No, Casadesus does not play with the strength, virtuosity, and intensity of, say, Richter or Janis or Ogdon, but when needed, Casadesus does summon a nicely diabolical sound and he does play strongly. Elsewhere, he plays with deft articulation and speed, and in the softer passages he shines. Perhaps this is soft-edged Liszt overall, but it is good. George Szell leads his Clevelanders in an extremely fine accompaniment (dig the solo cello contributions!), and the 1952 mono sound is very good. Casadesus teamed up with the same forces at the same time for the Weber piece. Heres a work Ive heard only a few times, and thats been quite alright with me. This is a somewhat shallow showpiece (and was apparently part of Liszts traveling repertoire), though even it has its moment. The slow, dark, dramatic opener helps set the mood for the dazzling virtuosity of the second part. Casadesus not only doesnt let the listener down, he positively sparkles. The third section of the work starts with a grand, gaudy orchestral passages, but then its got more of that dazzling showpiece writing. No, this is not heavy fare, and I wont be collecting multiple versions, but all involved make it sound at least decent. Next up is Saint-Saens Fourth. What an appropriate work given that I consider Saint-Saens a fourth-rate composer. This time, Casadesus is joined by Lenny and his band in a 1961 recording. It turns out to be a fine match. The orchestral playing really deserves some mention: Lenny can pour on the melodrama in places (especially in the second movement), its true, but he can also lead a remarkably light accompaniment, with some extra fine playing by the winds. (The flute writing is quite fetching.) And one can just detect the influence of Wagner in some of the string writing. To the piano part, well, its in good hands. Casadesus never overdoes anything, and his light, clear playing and refined tone make this much nicer to listen to than Stephen Houghs award winning recording. Not a great piece, but one I may in fact revisit. The final work is the Faure, with Lenny and his band again the collaborators. Casadesus has Faure down, with a lovely tone and somewhat detached but never cold feel. (Why did he record so little solo Faure just the Op 103 preludes in the entire box?) Light and flitting, or slightly heated and searching, its all top notch. The orchestral writing is accomplished and aurally perfumed. Okay, so this isnt a masterpiece in the genre, but its still worthy of some repeated listens. So, disc one down, and my opinion of the great Mr Casadesus is pretty much the same as before I listened. I dont really expect anything else. But the Liszt piece at least shows that Casadesus can do well in music hes not usually associated with. So many choices for the next disc, what shall I choose . . .