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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67655
Recording details: May 2007
Government House, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: April 2008
Total duration: 24 minutes 21 seconds

'[Second Concerto in F sharp minor] is one of the gems of the genre, the first to be written in that key and with many surprising features such as the soloist kicking off proceedings fiercely and without any introduction … No 1 is a brilliant display vehicle … in No 3, presumed lost until recently, Hiller again strives to be innovative in terms of structure and handling of material … once more, one has to take off one's hat to Howard Shelley for leading such exuberant performances while simultaneously tackling demanding keyboard writing with amazing agility, innate elegance and complete stylistic empathy' (Gramophone)

'One of the more successful of Hyperion's prodigal disinterments of Romantic Piano Concertos. We have learnt from Howard Shelley's previous contributions to the series to expect brilliant and stylish playing, and he does not disappoint here. He also give full value to the lyrical elements' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Ferdinand Hiller is yet another of those gifted, yet unaccountably quite forgotten romantic composers only now coming to light … here is another splendid entry in Hyperion's seemingly inexhaustible 'Romantic Piano Concerto' survey' (American Record Guide)

'These dextrous and remarkably self-confident concertos … are studded with delights … as a pianist, Hiller was known for his delicate touch—and Shelley reflects that characteristic in the breathtaking finesse of his playing. At the same time, there's plenty of bravura here, too, which Shelley handles with enviable technical panache … all in all, another triumph in this ear-opening series' (International Record Review)

'It is clear that soloist/conductor and ensemble share a close musical relationship, with often-thrilling interplay occurring in the inordinate amount of back-and-forth between piano and orchestra in these works. Plenty of this is on display in the Third Concerto, a particularly fine work that balances devilishly demanding pianistic pyrotechnics with the prevailing significance of expression as specified by the composer … Shelley's virtuosity and musicianship glisten in the opening movement, with its haunting development section … Shelley and his TSO ensure that the F sharp minor Second Concerto is every bit as successful, from its attention-wresting opening gambit, to the marvellously angular piano melody at about 2:08 in the Andante espressivo, to the uplifting appearance of the second subject in the major at the end of the concerto. Even the early, bravura F minor concerto is full of deft wit and charm, its finale a magnificent and forward-looking crossbreed of waltzes by Chopin and Johann Strauss that allows Shelley to exploit his magnificent pianism to the full … an enchanting disc' (Musical Criticism.com)

Piano Concerto No 1 in F minor, Op 5
composer
1829/31; Paris; dedicated to Ignaz Moscheles; first performed at the Paris Conservatoire on 4 December 1831

Allegro moderato  [10'20]
Adagio  [5'52]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 1 in F minor Op 5 was composed during Hiller’s Paris period between 1829 and 1831, and it is dedicated to the piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles. Although the concerto, with its exceptionally brilliant solo part, was designed to give Hiller the opportunity to display his virtuosity, the ambitious composer also took great care to write a highly musical piece. The work was first performed at the Paris Conservatoire on 4 December 1831 at a concert in which his Symphony No 2 in A minor and a Faust Overture were also performed.

In the Allegro moderato, the orchestra announces the strikingly rhythmic first subject. After a lyrical second subject the piano enters with a dramatic fortissimo. The first subject leads to another pianistically conceived theme, which, with its ornamentations, resembles Chopin. Hiller’s first attempt at writing a concerto, his first essay in composing for a large orchestra, introduces us to his characteristic use of a twofold exposition, whereby he displays his ability to handle appropriately the two different sound worlds of the piano and orchestra. Before the piano introduces the second subject, there is an extended virtuosic passage in which the pianist can display his technical abilities. With the return of the first subject comes a transitional section, played mostly by the orchestra, which dispenses for the most part with any thematic development. The piano eventually introduces the reprise, which takes up the second subject. As in the coda, the piano part is dominated by ornamentation.

In the Adagio the orchestra introduces the piano, which enters ad libitum and almost fantasy-like. A dialogue between piano and orchestra leads to a more lyrical, dance-like section, before a poco agitato rhythmical accompaniment provides contrast. Material from the first two sections closes the movement.

The rondo finale, Allegro moderato e con grazia, with its loose structure, resembles an extended sonata rondo. The piano enters alone with the brilliant opening theme (dolce); the lyrical second subject is also introduced by the piano in writing that is markedly pianistic in style. This is followed by a sort of transitional section, and also a repeat of the second subject in the tonic. There is opportunity for the pianist to display his virtuosity in no fewer than five sections.

from notes by Eva Hanke © 2008
English: Roland Smithers

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