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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67430
Recording details: September 2002
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by David Garrett
Engineered by Andrew Dixon
Release date: March 2005
Total duration: 26 minutes 1 seconds

'You have to hand it to Howard Shelley. It's one thing to lead a concerto from the keyboard, but to do this when the solo part is so demanding and with such insouciance is quite another thing … Completed by Henry Roche's trenchant and engaging booklet notes, this is an issue which I cannot praise too highly' (Gramophone)

'Directing the performances from the keyboard, Shelley takes every prestidigitational hurdle with immaculate precision and aristocratic aplomb. He displays an exemplary range of touch and fluidity, communicates an intense pleasure in the music and indeed seems to revel in its abundant charm. The recording is of the same excellent standard as previous releases in this series. Listeners who have already enjoyed the other Moscheles concertos will not hesitate; if you haven't, this is a good place to start' (International Record Review)

'Imagine Paganini's Rossinian verve, Schumann's poetic sensibility and Mendelssohn's gentle humanity rolled into one, and you won't be far from the sound-world of these wonderful concertos' (Classic FM Magazine)

'All in all, if you're curious about this repertoire, I'd recommend you turn to the Hyperion series. This latest installment is as good a place as any to start' (Fanfare, USA)

'Pianist-conductor Howard Shelley… delivers very fine and sensitive performances on a Steinway piano. This recorded is a valuable addition for listeners interested in building their collection of nineteenth-century concertos or in tracing the history of the genre' (Nineteenth-Century Music Review)

Piano Concerto No 4 in E major, Op 64

Allegro maestoso  [13'12]
Adagio  [4'53]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Moscheles composed his Piano Concerto No 4 in E major, Op 64, between March and June 1823 during his third visit to England. He gave the first performance in London on 16 June, and played it during his tour of German cities in the autumn and also on his return to Vienna in November. Bearing a dedication to Empress Caroline Auguste of Austria, it is the last of the virtuoso concertos of his touring years, before the increasing bias towards expressive and innovatory musical ideas in his later concertos. Although Mozart and (especially) Beethoven can clearly be heard as primary inspirations, there is a great deal of forward-looking writing which surely points to the concerto’s being in turn a specific inspiration for Chopin’s E minor Concerto, composed in 1830.

The opening Allegro maestoso presents two clearly differentiated, but not unrelated, themes. At first it sounds as if Moscheles is repeating the elegant device from his Third Concerto of using the first theme as the accompaniment to the second – but it is only theme 1a, as it were, and the true second subject appears in its proper place, first on clarinets and flutes and then from full orchestra. Finely orchestrated Mozartian phrases link the themes in regular classical style, with a delicious woodwind passage just before the soloist’s entrance. The piano writing does full justice to the vigour of the thematic material, the intricate passagework and virtuoso repeated notes interwoven with some truly expressive cantabile writing. After a remarkable extended trill passage, the piano begins the development in G major and is soon deep in a harmonically wide-ranging fugato section, followed by two moments that startlingly foreshadow Schumann’s Piano Concerto. There are fine harmonic side-slips and a conclusion of ever-building excitement.

The Adagio opens with a broad, nobly expressive horn solo, which the piano takes up and soon begins to elaborate in increasingly decorated, even Romantic style. There is a canonic duet with the still prominent horn, who graces the music with an unexpected and lovely contrapuntal suspension, and joins in unison with the pianist towards the end of the movement, uncowed by the latter’s ostensible supremacy. Over a final tonic pedal, more trills lead the music to fade into a mist of quiet, almost impressionist arpeggios.

The horns return to usher in the finale, apparently sombre at first; but the woodwind echo has a clear military sound, and the piano soon strikes up with ‘The British Grenadiers’, which proceeds to get the full classical rondo treatment, with running triplets and Moscheles’ favourite ‘Scotch snap’ rhythm adding to the excitement. An upward semitone shift into F ushers in a quietly jazzy section, which expands into some vigorous contrapuntal writing and then suddenly switches to what sounds like a quote from Tchaikovsky. After passing through many keys, the music finally releases the brakes for a short and joyful coda.

from notes by Henry Roche İ 2005

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