A couple of years ago Naxos released a disc entitled
'Pupils of Chopin' which also quite naturally featured
Carl Filtsch and Thomas Tellefsen (8.572344
That recording likely gave a more expected view of composers who had
learnt from Chopin, featuring as it did mazurkas, impromptus and other
forms for piano solo he made internationally famous. They were all performed,
incidentally, by the same elegant and expressive Norwegian pianist heard
here, Hubert Rutkowski.
This CD Accord disc is different and in many ways more interesting. Filtsch's two works include a purely orchestral overture - a form that Chopin ignored - whilst Tellefsen's Piano Concerto in G minor in some ways surpasses Chopin in scope and brilliance.
Tellefsen's name - misspelt 'Ackland' on the Naxos disc - reflects his Norwegian origins. Ironically, if he had been born in central Europe, he might be ranked today alongside the better-known grand virtuosos of the piano from the nineteenth century - his friend and teacher Chopin, Liszt, Alkan, Kalkbrenner and Thalberg. As with Chopin, nearly all of Tellefsen's 44 published opuses are works for solo piano. These were admirably recorded a few years back by another Polish label, Acte Préalable, collected in 2007 into a four-CD box set "to commemorate HM The Queen Sonja of Norway's seventieth birthday anniversary" (AP 0998), and also by Norwegian label Simax (PSC 1239). Again like Chopin, Tellefsen wrote two piano concertos and apparently nothing else for orchestral forces. The final movement of the G minor is especially flamboyant, but in general terms Tellefsen's First arguably has at least as much going for it as Chopin's.
Transylvania-born Filtsch's works must be considered exceptional when his age is taken into consideration. He died from peritonitis a couple of weeks before his fifteenth birthday. That he wrote the very mature Konzertstück in B minor at the age of only twelve is mind-boggling. This was clearly a child prodigy on a par with Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns. Even Liszt said of him: "When this little one begins to tour I will have to close up shop." Annotator and Filtsch scholar Ferdinand Gajewski describes the work as being reminiscent of the first movement of Chopin's E minor Concerto, but the comparison is not entirely self-evident. Filtsch's work, though it does not reach the same lyrical heights as Chopin, is almost more profound. If that sounds absurd, it should be recalled that Chopin was himself still only a twenty-year-old - a lad, so to speak- when he wrote his Concerto. Filtsch's Overture is also impressive, better than many 19th-century examples of its kind. He and Tellefsen are both composers that merit much wider recognition.
Audio quality is good, though CD Accord's orchestral recordings do tend to sound just a shade on the thin side - more like 320kbps mp3 encoding than lossless. The disc is at any rate undeniably lacking in minutes. In this regard CD Accord might profitably have turned, as Naxos did, to other Chopin pupils like Karol Mikuli or Adolph Gutmann for extra material. Nonetheless, the fine performances recorded here constitute some redress for that short running time.
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