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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67465
Recording details: September 2003
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by David Garrett
Engineered by Andrew Dixon
Release date: June 2004
Total duration: 14 minutes 14 seconds

'There are few more dextrous or musicianly pianists then Shelley … and I am more than grateful for an artist who, like Herz himself, can make you think 'that a bird had escaped from his fingers and went undulating and singing through the air' (The New York Times in 1946)' (Gramophone)

'If you've enjoyed previous volumes in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto Series, you'll certainly warm to this delightful release' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Howard Shelley, who performs the dual role of piano soloist and orchestral director, delights in the charm and the considerable technical challenge of it all, and with his always fluent and controlled fingerwork, he makes it sound easy' (International Record Review)

'Shelley and the Tasmanians are persuasive advocates for these three piano concertos: this is charming, tuneful music, deftly orchestrated by a man who obviously knew his Chopin, Rossini and, in the nocturne-like slow movements, John Field' (The Sunday Times)

'Shelley makes even the most plainspun of phrases sound like long-lost treasure being discovered anew. First-rate accompaniment and resplendent sonics round out an unexpected delight' (Classic FM Magazine)

'… Shelley et les Tasmaniens jouent avec une verve, une beauté de sonorité, un noble abandon qui attisent les bravos' (Diapason, France)

Piano Concerto No 8 in A flat major, Op 218

Andantino  [3'25]
Polonaise  [5'21]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Herz composed his Piano Concerto No 8 in A flat major Op 218 in 1873, the year before he resigned from the Paris Conservatoire. Listening blind to this concerto, it is surprising to learn that it was written only a year before Tchaikovsky began work on his First Piano Concerto. The underpinning for the first movement (Allegro molto moderato) is found in the rhythmic figure of the first two bars. A succession of brief melodic motifs is presented in Herz’s idiomatic style but now, instead of treacherous runs in thirds and exposed octave leaps, there is, alongside some blistering con fuoco passages, an emphasis on dolente espressivo, con grazia, cantabile and delicato playing. The movement ends repeating the opening rhythmic figure, now in E major. The brief Andantino that follows commences with a theme that could have come from one of Herz’s opera fantasies. A second section (in 12/16) provides a contrast before the opening aria is heard decorated in the left hand and again, after an accompanied cadenza, in the right. The last movement is a high-spirited Polonaise with an unexpected (and heart-catching) digression from A flat to B major and back. Following this is the second subject marked ‘Hymne national’. It is unclear quite to which nation this hymn belongs. Only the Polish national anthem bears a resemblance, albeit a very slight one, to the tune. The orchestra announces it first, repeated by the soloist who links a return to the Polonaise with two pages of bravura leggieramente writing. The national hymn returns before the brilliant coda. Clearly, the aged M. Henri Herz had not lost the common touch.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2004

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