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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67720
Recording details: April 2008
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: July 2009
Total duration: 11 minutes 36 seconds

'Howard Shelley, conducting from the keyboard, produces blistering accounts of the solo parts, and his Tasmanians play their hearts out. The recorded sound is fine, too. Recommended with every enthusiasm: 70 minutes of unalloyed pleasure' (International Record Review)

'Both works contain arrestingly characterful and lovely things. Benedict's aim is to dazzle his listeners with dashing brilliance … Shelley is a beguiling player … fresh, fluent, lucid, suave and never tempted to oversell' (The Sunday Times)

'Pianophiles and collectors of rarities will gravitate to this beautifully performed disc. It's a tour-de-force of pianism-plus-directing from Howard Shelley' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The TSO plays with the punch and style of the 40s movie studio orchestras … and the works are simply delightful … with a classy piano leading the way, this great find is simply magical gold laced with genius. The quickest way to cut through jaded classical ears is with a dose of this gem' (Midwest Record, USA)

Concertstück in E minor
1881; dedicated to Nanette Kuhe who probably gave the first performance at the Brighton Music Festival in 1881

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Walter Macfarren (1826–1905) was the son of a dramatist, and the younger brother of one of the leading Victorian composers, George Alexander Macfarren. He had a long career as a piano teacher at the Royal Academy of Music: among his students were Tobias Matthay, Stewart Macpherson and Henry Wood. His vast output of piano pieces is tuneful, amiable and unambitious; like many English musicians of his generation, he evidently took Mendelssohn as his ideal and model. As a student he composed a piano concerto in B minor, performed in 1845 but now lost. His only extant work for piano and orchestra is the Concertstück. He dedicated it to one of his pupils, Nanette Kuhe, the short-lived daughter of Wilhelm Kuhe, a prominent German immigrant who founded and directed the Brighton Musical Festival (1871–82). It was there, in all probability, that Nanette premiered the work in 1881, when it was published with a dedication to her.

The Concertstück, after an opening flourish, embarks on a sombre tune for winds and strings in E minor, which sounds like the main theme of a sonata-form movement, until the music suddenly turns back to E major. The piano then announces the ‘real’ theme, a Mendelssohnian Song Without Words in E major. The strings take it up with rich piano accompaniment, and an equally melodious second subject appears in the dominant key, followed by a trill, cadence, and closing tutti. A sudden change to E flat major heralds a repeat of the second tune; the return of the main song in E major is again prepared in the minor mode. After further developments there is a final-sounding trill for the piano, but the cadence is interrupted with a tutti in C major leading to a cadence in E. Strong double octaves for the piano begin the drive to the finish.

from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2009

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