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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: 30 minutes 36 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 5 in C major, Op 87

Allegro moderato  [13'37]
Allegro vivace  [9'47]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 5 in C major, Op 87, was the first concerto Moscheles composed after he settled in London and the first of his ‘later’ period; it is dedicated to his friend and fellow-composer Sigismund Neukomm. The work took shape over a period of several years. The first movement was composed in the summer of 1826, during a tranquil six-week holiday spent with his wife’s relations in the north German countryside. But Moscheles, deep in the creation of his 24 Studies, seems to have put the concerto to one side, the Adagio being written some five years later. The complete work was probably heard for the first time at a Philharmonic Society concert in London in March 1832. Its popularity, like that of its successors, never rivalled that of the earlier concertos, perhaps on account of the increasingly exploratory element in his musical language, and the thoughtful qualities that lend so much of the music its delicate and subtle sensibility.

The first movement, broad in conception and deeply rooted in the classical tradition, is built from simple motifs whose gentleness conceals their innate strength. The more graceful and flowing second subject shows the composer’s innocente musical character. A harmonically bold orchestral passage takes the music down into E minor, introducing a development section in which the soloist explores a wide range of tonalities and ideas. At last the oboe signals the imminent return of the opening, which however almost qualifies as another development in its own right – starting fortissimo, it follows entirely new harmonic paths, compressing and reworking the original material in a manner truly worthy of his idol Beethoven. Trumpets end the movement with a ringing restatement of the four opening notes.

The Adagio in E minor, one of the loveliest movements Moscheles ever wrote, can perhaps be seen as bridging the gap between Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony. Violas and a pizzicato bass support the opening cello melody, a reversal of roles that lends the tune a wonderful depth of feeling and a sort of innocent purity. We enter a more chromatic passage with tragic undertones, and then the horns introduce a passage in the major key filled with an almost religious tenderness. The mood swings between resolute confidence and deep sorrow until the orchestra dies away, leaving the piano to sing the opening theme on its own, before the horn and timpani guide the movement solemnly to a quiet ending.

The playful finale, which starts with an overt homage to Beethoven’s C minor Concerto, has at times quite a rustic flavour, particularly in the horn writing. After a pastoral theme in the dominant, there comes a specially charming figure of falling trills which serves to unite a movement in which nothing, even the fugal passage, is intended to be taken quite seriously. At one point Sullivan comes irresistibly to mind – though not yet born, he was to be Moscheles’ pupil in Leipzig. Piano and orchestra indulge in quickfire dialogue, the soloist enjoys some virtuoso fireworks, a theme returns in disguise at half-speed, and in the più mosso coda the piano completes its contribution to the proceedings with a triumphant glissando and the orchestra ends on its own.

from notes by Henry Roche © 2005
English: Hyperion Records Ltd

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