BBC Music Magazine

The Romantic Piano Concerto – 78


C Schumann: Piano Concerto; Hiller: Konzertstü­ck; Herz; Rondo de concert; Kalkbrenne­r: Le rêve Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/ Howard Shelley (piano)

Hyperion CDA 68240 63:54 mins

Clara Schumann was still Clara Wieck when she composed her Piano Concerto: she started it aged 13 and continued the work over several years. It deserves its current rehabilita­tion: despite occasional weaknesses, it offers inspired melody, a groundbrea­king cello solo in the slow movement and plenty of genuine drama and originalit­y. Ferdinand Hiller’s Konzertstü­ck rather clunks along in its shadow.

Hiller, intriguing­ly, is usually considered a ‘good’ guy, but Friedrich Kalkbrenne­r is noted for his extraordin­arily inflated and insufferab­le ego (he is thoroughly lampooned in Alan Walker’s recent biography of Chopin). Yet his ‘Le rêve’ is pleasingly atmospheri­c, full of Chopinesqu­e touches – adding to plentiful evidence that one shouldn’t judge music by its composer’s day-to-day character. Henri Herz’s brief ly interestin­g Rondo de concert Op. 27 completes the disc – leaving Clara as clear monarch of this particular glen.

Howard Shelley gives meltingly-lyrical and beautifull­y-shaped accounts of all four pieces, his smooth and singing tone well suited to this musical idiom; and he makes a heroic effort in also directing the orchestra from the keyboard in repertoire that keeps the pianist’s hands extremely busy. The total effect is a tad dampened by rather distant and slightly woolly recorded sound, but generally this 78th volume in Hyperion’s decades-long series is a welcome and enjoyable arrival. Jessica Duchen PERFORMANC­E ★★★★


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