June 06, 2016

Star pianist Andrew von Oeyen to release Warner Classics debut

The American virtuoso teams with PKF-Prague Philharmonia and music director/chief conductor Emmanuel Villaume.

Warner Classics renews its collaboration with the PKF-Prague Philharmonia and the orchestra’s music director and chief conductor Emmanuel Villaume, with a new album to be released in January 2017.

Critically acclaimed pianist Andrew von Oeyen makes his label debut with the PKF-Prague Philharmonia and Villaume for a high-energy album of music by Saint-Saëns, Ravel, and Gershwin.

As with the orchestra's 2014 label debut Héroïque, with New Orleans-born tenor Bryan Hymel singing grand opéra rarities, the forthcoming release brings French and American connections to the fore.

Von Oeyen says that the choice of repertoire has been influenced by his own travels and the two centers of his international career. “I have been living between France and the US since 2002. Both Ravel and Gershwin appeal to me, as do croissants and bagels!” he explains.

“Perhaps, then, it is no coincidence that my first album for Warner Classics presents a Franco-American theme and explores the interplay between the two cultures. The unifying thread is Maurice Ravel, who knew both Camille Saint-Saëns and George Gershwin.”

A pianist of “indisputable gifts [with] an extravagantly thorough and effortless technique,” (Los Angeles Times), von Oeyen makes his Warner Classics debut with Ravel’s jazz-tinged Concerto in G and Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G Minor, written 60 years earlier. Alongside these two French masterpieces, von Oeyen has opted for a rarely-performed work by the composer of An American in Paris: not the sparkling Rhapsody in Blue for which Gershwin is most famous, but his Second Rhapsody (1931).

“It bears all the hallmarks of Gershwin’s genius and, in my estimation, at times even surpasses its prototype. Certainly it deserves to be played more often, particularly in the orchestration heard on this album,” von Oeyen affirms. “Probably no American composer was more influenced by the music of Ravel than Gershwin and no French composer more influenced by the music of Gershwin than Ravel,” he adds.

Having made his debut at the age of 16 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, von Oeyen went on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School and Columbia University in New York. He now divides much of his time between Los Angeles and Paris.

Strasbourg-born Emmanuel Villaume was appointed Music Director and Chief Conductor of the PKF-Prague Philharmonia in September 2015. In February of that year, they made their Warner Classics debut in American tenor Bryan Hymel’s album Héroïque: Opera News praised “Emmanuel Villaume’s stunning work with the Prague Philharmonia throughout the disc”.

Andrew von Oeyen: Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin with the PKF-Prague Philharmonia and Emmanuel Villaume will be released on Warner Classics in January 2017.

Andrew von Oeyen PraguePhoto: Morris Media