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Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Piano Concerto in A Minor [20:50]
Ferdinand HILLER (1811-1885)
Konzertstück, Op. 113 [20:51]
Henri HERZ (1803-1888)
Rondo de concert, Op. 27 [11:25]
Friedrich KALKBRENNER (1785-1849
Le rêve, Op. 113 [10:43]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Howard Shelley (piano)
rec. 2018, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Australia
The Romantic Piano Concerto Volume 78
HYPERION CDA68240 [63:54]

Hyperion’s wonderful series of discs celebrating The Romantic Piano Concerto goes from strength to strength with volume 78 offering the Concerto by Clara Schumann, along with works by three composers who have all featured elsewhere in the series, Ferdinand Hiller, Henri Herz and Friedrich Kalkbrenner

If you forget the Konzertsatz in F minor, which has been completed by Belgian musicologist and pianist Jozef de Beenhouwer in the mid 1990’s, the Piano Concerto in A Minor represents Clara Schumann’s only extant orchestral work. Clara began to write the Concerto in 1833 when she was only fourteen, yet the technical challenges posed by the work are more than ambitious, it was composed backwards as it where, with the final movement, the most demanding of the three linked movements, coming first and originally intended as a single movement Konzertsatz. Clara’s father, the influential musician and teacher Friedrich Wieck, asked one of his students, Robert Schumann, to help Clara with the orchestration of the piece, and the rest is history. The Concerto was premiered in November 1835 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Felix Mendelssohn with the young Clara as soloist. The performance of Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian Symphony orchestra is first rate and is more compelling than either of my other recordings, Angela Cheng (KIC-CD 7169) and Veronica Jochum (TUDOR788), although Jochum’s has the best couplings being a disc solely dedicated to the music of Clara Schumann and which contains the Piano Trio and the Three Romances for Violin and Piano. I particularly like the central slow movement with its inclusion of a solo cell.

As already mentioned, the remaining three pieces on this disc are by composers already featured in the series. With Ferdinand Hiller’s three piano concertos featuring on volume 45 (CDA67655) which was Gramophone Editors Choice back in June 2008, and which I have enjoyed in the past. Here his Konzertstück, which in effect is another concerto, with its three distinct sections, like the Clara Schumann, being played without a break. This is a work that fits its inclusion in the charming slow central section being very romantic in character. This is followed by the Rondo de concert by Henri Herz, who has featured on three volumes in this series, volumes 35 (CDA67465), 40 (CDA67537 and 66 (CDA68100), none of which I know, but what I have heard here in this beguiling piece makes me want to invest in all three discs. The final composer represented on this disc is Friedrich Kalkbrenner features on volumes 41 (CDA67535) and 56 (CDA67843), the second of which I have. Here ‘Le rêve’ begins with a broad sweep of the strings before the dramatic entry of the piano, with the dramatic nature of the piece belying the title of the piece.

For me the Clara Schumann is the stand-out piece here, and I am surprised it has taken until volume 78 for it to be included in the series, but the three additional pieces are no mere makeweights. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with their conductor and soloist Howard Shelley, continue here in the same vein as they do in the Hiller and Kalkbrenner discs that I have, with excellent and committed plying by soloist and orchestra. Indeed, they are involved in all of six volumes mentioned above, and I can only imagine that their performances are as compelling there as they are here and in the volumes I have. As always, the Hyperion sound is excellent as are the booklet notes by Jeremy Nicholas, making this a very worthy addition to this wonderful series of Romantic Piano Concerto recordings.

Stuart Sillitoe

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