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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68043
Recording details: April 2013
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Veronika Vincze
Release date: July 2014
Total duration: 28 minutes 35 seconds

'Godard's music tickles the senses with some attractive, dramatic ideas during the actual process of listening. There is, for example, a delightful, nifty Saint-Saëns-esque Scherzo to the A minor Concerto, and an even better one in the G minor ... the performances by the indefatigable Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian orchestra cannot be faulted' (Gramophone) » More

'Benjamin Godard is nowadays known solely for the Berceuse from his 1888 opera Jocelyn, regularly performed by classical and popular musicians alike. There was more to him than that, however, as this enterprising disc—Volume 63 of Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series—admirably proves. Godard distrusted Wagnerism, and his two piano concertos constrain Romantic sensibilities within the classical form in ways that often resemble Brahms, though Godard's thematic and orchestral elegance remain quintessentially French … the disc is a tour de force for Howard Shelley, who, in addition to coping with Godard's often vertiginous piano writing, directs all three performances from the keyboard, which is no mean feat' (The Guardian) » More

'Throughout all three works, Shelley dazzles with his effortless virtuosity and lightness of touch, and the recording is first-rate. In short, this release must rank alongside the finest of rediscoveries in this most pioneering of series, and one that should spur on others to explore further the works of this greatly neglected composer' (International Record Review) » More

Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 148

Andante –  [7'17]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 148 (1893), begins with a lugubrious version of the first movement’s main subject, heard over the hushed semiquavers of the piano’s opening gestures. This theme returns at the beginning of the last movement and rounds off the whole work. In its folk-like innocence it resembles the second subject of the A minor Concerto’s finale, especially when sung plaintively for the first time by the piano in G major where it also sounds like a distant Gallic relative of the theme from the last movement of Balakirev’s Piano Sonata. After its restatement by the orchestra, Godard moves back to the tonic minor for an Allegro passage in triplets using fragments of the folk-like theme. This leads to an enchanting dialogue between oboe and flute beneath the piano’s demisemiquavers (32nd notes), but it is not long before the principal theme reappears, forcefully restated in the best tradition of the Romantic concerto, and bringing the movement to an end.

Little of the above sounds like the work of someone routinely classified as a salon music composer. The lovely theme of the second movement (in B flat major) most certainly does, however, and most touching it is too. Godard, incidentally, liked to use the full range of the keyboard, and here occasionally takes his soloist down to the very bottom B flat. A central section in five flats threatens to obliterate the serenity of proceedings but calm soon returns, a quiet series of arpeggios taking us, attacca, into the Scherzo, in F minor. Here, in this delightful and all-too-brief movement of Mendelssohnian gossamer, are hints of the famous scherzos from Litolff’s Concerto symphonique No 4 and Saint-Saëns’s G minor Piano Concerto No 2.

The Andante maestoso opening of the last movement announces the return of the very first theme of the concerto. After a lengthy cadenza-like episode, the finale proper begins—and what an extraordinary finale it is: a moto perpetuo of sextuplets (three groups to a bar), often in unison an octave apart, punctuated by a sprightly second subject given to the flute. Soon this breathless—but never frenetic—toccata gives way with satisfying inevitability to the grandiose statement of the concerto’s main theme, after which the soloist hurtles towards the close in a blaze of interlocking chromatic octaves.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2014

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