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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66897
Recording details: June 1996
Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Amanda Hurton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: April 1997
Total duration: 31 minutes 4 seconds

'If you'd sooner have fraises des bois and crème Chantilly rather than foie gras and trumpets, this is for you' (Gramophone)

'These really are very good performances of two mystifyingly neglected gems of the repertoire' (BBC Record Review)

'A thoroughly delightful piece [Hahn], well worth reviving, here perfectly coupled. A delight [Massenet].' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Heavenly Hahn in this latest addition to this treasure of a series' (Classic CD)

'Hyperion is to be congratulated for adding this work to its growing series of Hahn compositions … high spirits and joy aplenty … Another Romantic Piano Concerto winner from Hyperion; heartily recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Coombs believes implicitly in both compositions and his restrained brand of pearly virtuosity (right for the music) added to a considerable musical sensibility puts forward a persuasive case' (Hi-Fi News)

'One of the finest releases in Hyperion's ongoing series of Romantic piano concertos. There's no reason why these pieces aren't standard repertoire, especially in performances like this: Coombs literally plays the pants off both of them, and Ossonce matches him lick for lick. It's the genuine article, a true discovery, a collector's dream' (Classical Pulse)

'Stephen Coombs is at least as fine as any artist to appear from Russia in all the past 20 years. Sonics are excellent and the booklet brimming with interest' (In Tune, Japan)

'A thoroughly delightful disc' (Piano, Germany)

'Ambas obras permiten el lucimiento del solista, y lógicamente Coombs no ha dejado escapar la oportunidad para ofrecernos unas versiones majestuosas, rebosantes de sonoridad, dotadas de un magnetismo evidente' (CD Compact, Spain)

Piano Concerto in E flat major

Largo  [9'39]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
When Massenet’s piano concerto was premiered in 1903 it received a very tepid welcome. The first performance was given by Louis Diemer, the work’s dedicatee, and thereafter the concerto fell into obscurity. Diemer was a contemporary of Massenet, indeed they had both studied composition with Ambroise Thomas. A famous virtuoso, Diemer was also himself a fairly successful composer (he wrote a piano concerto in C minor and many other solo piano works, as well as songs and chamber music); he was also the Paris Conservatoire’s most famous piano professor. By the time of the first performance of Massenet’s concerto, Diemer was sixty years old. With a concerto that calls for youthful exuberance, it may well be that the poor reception from the audience was occasioned as much by the performance as the music itself. The pianist Mark Hambourg dismissed Diemer as ‘a dry-as-dust player with a hard rattling tone’, but again this verdict must have been based on memories of an older Diemer. The general respect accorded him, especially in France, is convincingly demonstrated by the enormous number of works dedicated to Diemer, including (apart from Massenet’s concerto) Franck’s Variations symphoniques, Saint- Saëns’ fifth piano concerto, Tchaikovsky’s third piano concerto, Lalo’s piano concerto and the twelfth Barcarolle by Fauré. Whether, in the case of Massenet’s concerto, the pianist’s performance was to blame or not, it seems likely that by 1903 the musical tastes of Parisian audiences had moved on from Massenet’s old-fashioned contribution and it is not too surprising that the concerto, despite its charms, never found a place in the repertory.

from notes by Stephen Coombs © 1997

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