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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: 31 minutes 35 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 3 in A flat major 'Concerto espressivo', Op 170
composer
completed on 24 October 1874; first performed by the composer in Cologne on 2 March 1875; unpublished; autograph score and parts in the University Library of Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt am Main

Allegro con anima  [12'35]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Hiller completed the score of his Piano Concerto No 3 in A flat major ‘Concerto espressivo’ Op 170 on 24 October 1874, and then wrote out the orchestral parts. The sixty-three-year-old performed his new concerto, after some delay, on 2 March 1875 in Cologne at one of the Gürzenich concerts. It was well received. The very title draws attention to the concept and character of this work, Hiller’s last piano concerto. Detailed markings vouch for the importance of ‘expression’, which is in no way restricted to the piano part.

The first movement, Allegro con anima, exhibits orthodox sonata form, even if individual parts of the structure seem considerably elongated. The exposition of the themes is divided between the orchestra and soloist. The orchestra introduces the first lyrical (dolce) theme, the piano the second theme with its simple cantabile melody (molto espressivo). Both orchestra and soloist are equally involved in the movement which, for a concerto, involves unusually dense treatment of motifs and themes.

The Andante quasi adagio also manifests a marked dovetailing between piano and orchestra. The structure, with its numerous changes of key and rhythm, as well as of tempo, is formally complex. It is noticeable that the themes are no longer developed in a strict order, and vary in their form. A remarkable feature of the movement are the unaccompanied arabesques woven by the piano.

The final, loosely structured Allegro con spirito begins with an orchestral introduction. The movement is twice interrupted by a fermata, after which the piano enters and, unaccompanied, announces the Ländler-like, free-ranging first subject (dolce, con grazia). Like the lyrical second subject (dolce), introduced by the orchestra, it is divided between soloist and orchestra. Further motifs are introduced principally by the piano, which, because of its part in the musical development, has little room for exuberant virtuoso flourishes.

Since the Piano Concerto No 3 was published neither as an orchestral piece nor as a version for piano alone, it was not widely performed and was, after the first few performances, scarcely heard. It was presumed lost as late as the 1920s. An autograph score and a set of orchestral parts do exist, however, in the University Library of Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt am Main.

from notes by Eva Hanke © 2008
English: Roland Smithers

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