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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: 19 minutes 53 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

Piano Concerto No 2 in F sharp minor, Op 69
autumn 1843; dedicated to Wilhelmin Szarvady; first performed in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 26 October 1843

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 2 in F sharp minor Op 69 is considered to be Hiller’s most successful contribution to the genre. The work, which is dedicated to Wilhelmin Szarvady, was composed around the time Hiller moved from Frankfurt to Leipzig in the autumn of 1843. Despite the lack of rehearsal time, the premiere in the Gewandhaus on 26 October 1843 was a success. In this concerto Hiller clearly moved away from the Parisian virtuoso style: compared to his earlier concerto Op 5 this work finds a different solution to the ‘concerto problem’. All three movements are, in their form and development, conceived in a much more multi-layered manner, with piano and orchestra dovetailing more frequently.

The first movement, Moderato, ma con energia e con fuoco, begins unconventionally. Instead of an orchestral exposition, the piano opens the movement and announces the energetic first subject. After a lyrical second subject, an unaccompanied passage for piano merges into the orchestral exposition. After the first subject, a second march-like theme is introduced, with the piano adding its own lyrical and ornamented theme. A fortissimo chord, played by the piano and strings, marks the beginning of a short development section. There is then a reprise of the first subject which, after a few bars, merges into a cadenza for the piano soloist. The thematic material is suffused with embellishments. A final orchestral tutti brings about a synthesis of the first theme and the second orchestral theme. The piano, playing quasi fantasia and ad libitum, leads directly into the slow movement.

The protagonist in the Andante espressivo is clearly the soloist. In a chord-dominated movement the piano announces several lyrical motifs with frequently modulating harmonies. After a return to the first subject there is a highly embellished recitative-like passage in which the soloist plays several bars above string tremolandos and chords played by the wind section. The first subject returns in the orchestra, after which the piano brings the movement to an end with three unaccompanied pianissimo chords.

Viewed formally the finale, Allegro con fuoco, is a combination of sonata structure and development. The orchestra begins the movement, after which the soloist announces the first subject with a distinctive octave leap. The lyrical second subject is also introduced by the piano, accompanied by low-lying pizzicato strings. From now on the themes, or snatches of themes, alternate in various keys, interrupted by pianistic flourishes.

from notes by Eva Hanke © 2008
English: Roland Smithers

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