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 ★★★★