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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA68027
Recording details: September 2013
Ulster Hall, Belfast, United Kingdom
Produced by Annabel Connellan
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: August 2014
Total duration: 30 minutes 31 seconds

'They are rewarding works … they sound especially effective in the persuasive hands of Howard Shelley. Shelley's sympathy for that uneasy period just before the romantic explosion is demonstrated by his exemplary recordings of Clementi (among others), and he demonstrates the same kind of expressive tact as a soloist here. Rhythms are consistently alert; the more lyrical passages bloom without excessive romantic milking; passagework is nimble; and most important, he manages to point up the music's harmonic twists without digging his elbows into our sides. His work as conductor is nearly as impressive: from the sting of the rhythms that launch the early G major Concerto to the airy dance rhythms in the finale of the E flat major, the accompaniments, inevitably attentive, complement the piano parts well. The orchestral players respond deftly, and the engineers have captured the proceedings with Hyperion's expected clarity. Add to this the fine notes by Stephan Lindeman and you have a sure-fire hit' (International Record Review) » More

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70
1810; C238

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Dussek’s Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70 (1810), is contemporaneous with the first efforts in the genre by Weber, Hummel and Ries, mid-to-late concertos by Cramer, Field, and Steibelt, and Beethoven’s final two piano concertos (No 4 in G major, 1808, and No 5 in E flat major, ‘Emperor’, 1810). By comparison with Dussek’s earlier concertos (and those of other composers), this concerto presents a greatly expanded first movement. Following a lengthy transition in the first ritornello, the secondary theme is presented in the dominant, a modulation never encountered at this point in the earlier Dussek concertos. The illustrious critic Donald Francis Tovey, in his famous essay ‘The Classical Concerto’, cautioned against just such a modulation, in which the first tutti ‘merges into symphonic writing’. Tovey might have described this section of Dussek’s protracted transition (as he did, perhaps pejoratively, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3) as ‘sheer symphonic exposition: it arouses no expectation of the entry of the solo instrument and … leaves nothing essential for the pianoforte to add when its time comes’. There is an essential difference, however, between Dussek’s and Beethoven’s use of thematic material: as we have seen, in Dussek’s typical practice the soloist contributes his own, distinct thematic elements, and does therefore add essential material. Beethoven’s conception represents a greater engagement between the soloist and orchestra, with a sharing (or struggle for ownership) of the thematic material used in common.

The first movement has some novel structural features. Breaking with the typical concerto recapitulation scheme, where all the tutti and solo thematic material is obligatorily restated, Dussek substantially abridges and alters the recapitulation in the first movement, perhaps because he sensed that the movement would otherwise be too long. We reach a final trill for the soloist, preparing the way for the final confirmation of the tonic key, but Dussek resolves this unexpectedly onto the flattened submediant (C flat major), further extending this closing passage before the delayed confirmation of E flat major at the arrival of the closing (third) ritornello. Digressions are a salient feature of many of Dussek’s concertos, but this harmonic detour is entirely new to the recapitulation—it did not occur in the exposition.

The lovely second movement in B flat major is cast in a typically lyrical, ternary design. The movement is replete with concertante exchanges between the piano, winds and strings, revealing Dussek’s excellence in the subtleties of orchestration (and perhaps causing us to lament that he did not compose other large-scale orchestral works). Dussek once again incorporates a side-stepping harmonic resolution, away from the expected sonority of F major, down a major third to D flat major, before returning home to B flat major.

Op 70 concludes with a jovial rondo in E flat major, with Dussek again brandishing a colourful orchestral palette. The middle section of the rondo, typically a developmental area, passes through several distant keys, including the enharmonic Neapolitan (E major), a colourful, even shocking harmonic juxtaposition at this point. Again, wonderful concertante exchanges abound.

from notes by Stephan D Lindeman © 2014

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