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Hyperion Records

CDA67765 - Taubert & Rosenhain: Piano Concertos
CDA67765

Recording details: April 2009
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: August 2010
DISCID: 8710C609
Total duration: 71 minutes 10 seconds

IRR 'OUSTANDING' AWARD

'How Howard Shelley manages to play these scores with such conviction and apparent ease while conducting from the keyboard is one of the musical marvels of the age … for those who delight in sparkling virtuoso display, the two outer movements of Rosenhain's concerto will not disappoint, but it is the slow movement that provides the most oustanding movement of the disc. This beautifully played serene Andante on its own is bewitching enough to make this disc unmissable' (Gramophone)

'Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concertos series, now at Vol 51, is an invaluable archive of music' (The Daily Telegraph)

''Thank goodness for Hyperion!' was my initial reaction after hearing this excellent new CD in its extraordinarily successful Romantic Piano Concerto series  … who else can one turn to for the revelation of previously unknown music which demonstrably does not deserve the neglect into which it has fallen? … this is a brilliant CD of eminently worthwhile music … Shelley directs from the keyboard and, frankly, I don't know how he does it: some of the tempos in the outer movements of these works are pretty hair-raising, with the pianist kept hard at it—but the orchestra is with its highly gifted player / director all the way, and ensemble is first-rate … the result is enormously impressive—here is very good music, superbly played by these outstanding musicians, very well recorded and brought to us by a company whose very name is a byword for excellence' (International Record Review)

The Romantic Piano Concerto
Taubert & Rosenhain: Piano Concertos
Allegro vivace  [7'04]
Andante con moto  [8'41]
Andantino  [4'51]
Allegro non troppo  [12'15]
Andante  [6'47]

The Romantic Piano Concerto series continues to surprise and delight with a 51st disc of 19th-century pianistic splendour. This new release includes the two piano concertos by Wilhelm Taubert, as well as one of the two works for piano and orchestra by Jacob Rosenhain. Both composers were near exact contemporaries with Mendelssohn (born 1809), Chopin and Schumann (both 1810), Liszt (1811) and Wagner and Verdi (1813).

Taubert’s A major Concerto was described by Schumann as ‘one of the best’ – he also noted the parallels between it and Mendelssohn’s Op 25. But these similarities, however, do not negate the marvellous and distinctive music contained within Taubert’s Concerto. Nearly half a century separates Taubert’s first concerto and his Piano Concerto No 2 in A major Op 189 (c1874), and the second concerto reflects developments in the areas of harmonic expansion, cyclic development, and, of course, increased virtuosity.

Rosenhain wrote two concerted for works for piano and orchestra, an the A minor Concertino Op 30 (probably written in the 1840s, though published later), and the work included on this disc, the Piano Concerto in D minor Op 73. This work is fairly conservative in its form, offering little that had not been heard before. Still, there is much gorgeous and masterful music within its traditional three-movement form.

Howard Shelley directs the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the piano; a partnership that has garnered the highest praise for their previous Hyperion recordings.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
'One should enjoy this ephemeral, serene offering.’ As Robert Schumann reviewed Felix Mendelssohn’s second piano concerto, we might also describe the three delightful works on this disc. Contained herein are the two piano concertos by Wilhelm Taubert, as well as one of the two works for piano and orchestra by Jacob Rosenhain. Both composers were near exact contemporaries with Mendelssohn (born 1809), Frédéric Chopin and Schumann (both 1810), Franz Liszt (1811), and Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi (1813).

Wilhelm Taubert (1811–1891) was a German conductor, composer and pianist active in Berlin. At the age of twenty he was made assistant conductor and accompanist of the Berlin court concerts. In the next decade, he served as Generalmusikdirektor of Königliche Schauspiele under Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, and was also court Kapellmeister until 1869; he continued to conduct the royal orchestra until 1883. He was also highly regarded as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1865.

Taubert was part of a Berlin circle of musicians that included the baritone and writer Eduard Devrient, librettist of two of his operas; Devrient also sang in some of Mendelssohn’s early works. Surviving correspondence between Mendelssohn and Taubert reveals Mendelssohn’s perception of his colleague’s work as lacking ‘impetus and spirit’, which may have prevented Taubert from achieving lasting success as a composer of large works. However, his graceful, almost popular style was well suited to Lieder and short character pieces, such as the Minnelieder Op 16 for piano. This work has been favourably compared with Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte, and there is some dispute as to who influenced whom. The Kinderlieder Opp 145 and 160 are still performed today. Taubert also composed chamber music, piano sonatas and large orchestral works. As well as the two piano concertos on this disc, he also wrote a violin concerto and a Bacchanale, Divertissement brillant for piano and orchestra Op 28. As editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Robert Schumann reviewed many of Taubert’s compositions, and indicative of the high regard in which Taubert was held is the review of his Piano Duo Op 11 in the Neue Zeitschrift’s inaugural issue of April 1834. Schumann also asked Taubert to contribute to the journal.

Composed by his early twenties, Taubert’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E major Op 18 is dedicated to his (and Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn’s) Berlin piano teacher, Ludwig Berger. Schumann heard Taubert’s Op 18 performed by the composer on 4 November 1833. The work affected Schumann deeply at that time, and he made a number of notes to himself about the concerto. Two years later, after the score had been published, Schumann reviewed Taubert’s Op 18 in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (issue 4, 1 April 1836). Here he recalled many of the positive aspects of his first impression of the work (more of this below), but also found too many similarities to Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor Op 25 (composed in 1831, and published in 1832). Mendelssohn’s Op 25 has been credited as a ground-breaking concerto, shattering the previous formal paradigm that had been codified in Mozart’s concertos (all of which had been published by the early 1800s), and then essentially used by every composer since, including Hummel, Beethoven, Field, Dussek, Kalkbrenner, Weber et al. In a line-by-line comparison of the scores, Schumann noted the parallels between Mendelssohn’s Op 25 and Taubert’s Op 18, and credits Mendelssohn as the original.

It is true that there are many similarities: both concertos feature unified tutti/solo expositions, rather than the standard Mozartian form of concerto first movements, wherein the orchestra states their own ‘exposition’ of the work’s thematic material, all largely in the tonic, followed by a separate presentation (the ‘real’ exposition) by the soloist and orchestra of this thematic material, but now including a large scale modulation to the dominant (in a major-key concerto) or relative major (in a minor-key work). Instead, a brief tutti begins both the Mendelssohn and Taubert concertos. Both Mendelssohn’s Op 25 and Taubert’s Op 18 expositions include second-group digressions to distant key areas. Both include a clever trick of deceiving the listener into expecting that the second tutti is about to occur, but it is then withheld. This is accomplished by the soloist stating a series of virtuosic passages and trills over the dominant of the new key, which, in a Mozart or Beethoven concerto, would resolve to the new key in a blaze of pyrotechnics, and the commencement of the second tutti, confirming the new key. However, both the Mendelssohn and Taubert pieces lead seamlessly into a brief development or bridge section, through several keys, before the recapitulation. Neither concerto includes a cadenza; both prominently feature transitions that bond the movements together—a strategy probably borrowed from Beethoven, for example in the ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto (No 5) where the second movement flows directly into the finale, and from Carl Maria von Weber, whose Konzertstück of the early 1820s connects all four movements together (both pieces were performed by Mendelssohn, and perhaps Taubert as well).

These similarities, however, do not negate the marvellous and distinctive music contained within Taubert’s Concerto, as Schumann was quick to point out (in his 1836 review of the published score, Schumann proclaimed: ‘Without waxing lyrical, I would call this Concerto one of the most excellent.’) The luxuriant, pastoral quality of Taubert’s E major opening theme in the brief tutti (which, in this progressive, organic design, will reappear later in the movement as the second theme and again in the finale) is quite fetching. The masterful orchestration, highlighting individual solo winds, is particularly appealing; the octave doublings of flute and oboe seem to echo those used by Mendelssohn in the Hebrides Overture (premiered in 1832). Indeed, the beautiful, sustained-note theme of the second movement, in the distant A minor, is initially scored for a plaintive, solo oboe, which Schumann noted with approval and admiration. Of particular note is the dramatic, deceptive unison resolution (after a passage in A major) to the flattened sixth, F major (track 2 at 6'52), before returning to the A minor tonic shortly there after.

The subsequent finale begins in E minor, and is full of sparkling virtuosic display for the pianist, weaving filigree around tutti thematic statements. This progresses to a statement of this same material in the relative major (G), confirmed by a large tutti section (track 3 at 2'41), which then returns back to the tonic. The music progresses, development-like, through several keys before arriving at E major, signaled by an Adagio fermata over the dominant, where the horns enter, a tempo, with a restatement of the opening theme and texture of the first movement (at 5'00). We can see in retrospect that Taubert has created a cyclic design, by tying together the thematic material of the finale with that of the opening movement (which, again, Mendelssohn did in his Op 25), which the soloist then weaves together with the primary theme of the finale.

Nearly half a century separates Taubert’s first concerto and his Piano Concerto No 2 in A major Op 189 (c1874). Now in his sixties, there had not been the type of significant changes to the form of the genre that had occurred around the time of the composition of his first concerto, with Mendelssohn’s Op 25 (and Taubert’s own Op 18) revealing profound changes to the form of the concerto. However, to be sure, the concertos of Moscheles, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Alkan, Rubinstein, Litolff, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and a plethora of others had manifested developments in the areas of harmonic expansion, cyclic development, and, of course, increased virtuosity.

In Taubert’s Piano Concerto No 2 the composer now expands the design to incorporate a 54-bar Andante cantabile—again featuring a unified tutti/solo presentation of thematic material—that serves as an introduction to the subsequent Allegro marcato. The incredibly beautiful, soaring cello melody of this Andante (track 4 at 1'56) is of particular note. Perhaps Taubert was aware of the salient use of this instrument in the second movement of Clara Wieck’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op 7 (1836), as well as Schumann’s own masterpiece in the same key, Op 54 (1846). Interjections of distant, chromatic mediant areas show the composer’s thorough command of colourful, chromatic harmonic juxtapositions, and the closing section of this introduction is hauntingly beautiful. Again, Taubert’s masterful command of orchestration is present throughout this concerto, with the frequent interjections of various solo winds.

The Allegro marcato (track 4 from 4'49) is in F sharp minor (the relative of A major, the home key as established in the Andante), progressing to the soloist’s entry with the primary theme (at 5'10). It is highly virtuosic, though this is nothing new at this late date, of course. Several changes of key lead us through the transition section, before the statement of the secondary theme in E major (the dominant of the relative major, at 6'20). Here, the movement merges into a developmental passage, with restatements of the earlier thematic material now presented in several different keys. The primary theme returns in F sharp minor at the recapitulation (at 7'25), and it becomes apparent that Taubert has constructed a sort of rhapsodic, whirlwind journey through many keys, with statements of the primary thematic material in various guises. As in his Op 18, gone are any vestiges of a formal end of the exposition, which, instead, merges seamlessly with the development. The secondary theme returns in A major (at 8'18) before quickly moving to the F sharp minor tonic (at 8'49), largely retracing the exposition’s harmonic shifts, but now leading towards the home key. The movement is capped with a lengthy transition to the dominant of D major, the key of the subsequent Andantino.

The rather brief Andantino in 6/8 begins with a tutti, shortly joined by the soloist. The music turns subsequently to F sharp minor, recalling the key of the previous movement. D major soon returns to round out a ternary design.

The finale, Allegro vivace e leggiero, is cast in A major. Following statements of the primary theme in this key by both the soloist and orchestra, and a transition to the dominant (E major), the secondary theme is introduced by the piano. Revealing the cyclic design mentioned previously, Taubert now restates his initial theme of the entire concerto in this dominant key, creating a span across the complete design, followed by yet another earlier connection, the secondary theme of the Allegro marcato, now stated in E major (track 6 at 3'02). The subsequent material of the exposition is now restated in the recapitulation, in the home key.

Jacob Rosenhain (1813–1894) began his career in Frankfurt, and then moved to Paris in 1837 by way of London. In Paris (where he remained for over thirty years), he became a prominent figure in the musical scene, particularly through his chamber-music evenings, attended by Cherubini, Rossini and Berlioz.

During his over eighty-year life, Rosenhain composed in many genres, including four operas, an oratorio and three symphonies. He also wrote many other orchestral and chamber pieces, and a plethora of works for solo piano, including variations based on famous contemporary operas tunes. He was friends with Felix Mendelssohn, and Ignaz Moscheles. Early essays in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik reveal Robert Schumann’s enthusiasm for Rosenhain’s Piano Trio No 1 Op 2 (1836) and the Douze études caractéristiques Op 17 (1839).

Rosenhain wrote two concerted for works for piano and orchestra, including the A minor Concertino Op 30 (reviewed rather tersely by Schumann in the Neue Zeitschrift in July 1843), and the work included on this disc, the Piano Concerto in D minor Op 73 (probably composed in the 1840s and published later). In the spring of 1836 Schumann corresponded with Rosenhain asking if he would like to be the Frankfurt correspondent for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. Schumann’s esteem for the younger composer was based on his admiration for Rosenhain’s Op 2 Piano Trio, in which he detected considerable promise. However, he noted that ‘the later works of this richly talented young man … hardly stand comparison to this excellent beginning’. And after Rosenhain moved to Paris in the late 1830s, Schumann blamed what he perceived to be that city’s bad influence with regard to developing as a composer of more serious works.

Schumann may have not been particularly approving of Rosenhain’s D minor Piano Concerto, since it is fairly conservative in its form, offering little that had not been heard before. Still, there is much gorgeous and masterful music within its traditional three-movement form. The first movement, Allegro non troppo, begins with a relatively abbreviated first tutti featuring effective orchestration that highlights the bassoon, flute, clarinet, oboe and French horn. The solo exposition restates most of this thematic material in D minor, and then moves to the relative major, F, as we would expect in a Mozart concerto (more exotic and remote key areas were exploited by Rosenhain’s contemporaries). The second group is presented in this key (with marked similarity to the first theme, indicating a monothematic construction). Like the works of many other composers in the 1830s and ’40s (Ries, Field, Moscheles, Mendelssohn, Wieck and Schumann), the second group features a chromatic digression to the flattened III and flattened VI tonal areas (i.e., in F major, the keys of A flat major and D flat major), before returning to F major for the conclusion of the first solo section, and the beginning of the second tutti in this key. The tutti provides a seamless transition to G minor, for the beginning of the development in this key, featuring a new theme, developed by both piano and orchestra. Next, a section in A flat major marked quasi recitativo e rubato features lovely concertante statements by various solo instruments within the orchestra, building to fortissimo exchanges between the full tutti and solo. The orchestra seems to begin a false recapitulation with the first theme in the distant key of F sharp major (marked pp, dolcissimo), but this melts down to the tonic after just a few bars. Rosenhain constructs a ‘reverse’ recapitulation, with the second group appearing first. The movement concludes with some exciting exchanges between the soloist and orchestra before a solo clarinet accompanied by the piano closes out the movement. There is no cadenza.

A lovely Andante in B flat major follows. The dotted rhythm of much of the thematic material of the first movement recurs, perhaps reflecting an effort to create an organic, cyclic design across the three movements of this concerto. Following a presentation of thematic material in the tonic, and a modulation to the dominant, the middle section of this movement, in D minor, also features the marking quasi recitativo.

The spirited finale, Presto spirituoso in D major, offers the opportunity for much virtuosic display, with rapid triplet figures and cascading passagework. After a statement of the second group in the dominant, the music leads to a section marked même mouvement in 2/4, in the dominant minor, featuring solo clarinet, and then progressing through several time changes. Again, solo instruments within the orchestra are prominently displayed. Full orchestral tuttis in F major with punctuation from the soloist follow, before a concluding return to D major.

Stephan D Lindemann © 2010


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'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner' (CDA67843)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67843 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund' (CDA67828)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67828 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg' (CDA67915)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67915 
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński' (CDA67958)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67958  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois' (CDA67931)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67931  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61' (CDA67950)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67950  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod' (CDA67975)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67975  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard' (CDA68043)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard
Buy by post £7.88 CDA68043  Best of 2014   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 64 – Oswald & Napoleão dos Santos' (CDA67984)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 64 – Oswald & Napoleão dos Santos
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67984  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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