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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67535
Recording details: May 2005
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Andrew Dixon
Release date: September 2006
Total duration: 28 minutes 10 seconds

'In Howard Shelley [Kalkbrenner] has found a pianist who not only relishes everything the composer throws at him, including ambuscades of double notes, but who plays with truly dazzling wit and style … Shelley's effortless bravura would surely have awed and piqued the composer himself' (Gramophone)

'Shelley's fearless and seemingly impeccable technique seems to match Kalkbrenner's ideal of good piano-playing perfectly. The sound is always beautiful, those endless runs at the upper end of the keyboard register delivered as if they came easily rather than being the formidable obstacle course that they really are' (International Record Review)

'Kalkbrenner's First Concerto offers a truly beautiful and atmospheric slow movement … it would be a boring world if we couldn't find an hour to listen to these musical layer cakes from a bygone age' (Pianist)

'Shelley draws committed and expressive playing from this fine ensemble [The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra], besides dispatching the demanding solo parts with unfailing élan' (International Piano)

'Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series is one of the most significant recording ventures in front of the public today … the standard of the Hyperion edition has been so high, and it has done so much to showcase both young and established talent, with such exceptional recording quality, that it remains without parallel. Anyone who revels in exploring the peripheries of the repertoire will enjoy this disc enormously' (MusicWeb International)

'You may well find yourself riveted as the composer springs one surprise after another. He sustains the 15 minutes of the opening movement effortlessly, through good tunes and brilliant keyboard showmanship, and if the music exists primarily to entertain it certainly does so with style and grace … Howard Shelley plays both works with the panache that they require, and given the fact that he seldom has much of a chance to take his hands off of the keyboard, the Tasmanian Symphony stays with him admirably every step of the way. Hyperion's sonics are also better than some other releases from this source, being well balanced and flattering to both soloist and orchestra … you may find them becoming staples at home' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Howard Shelley is a persuasive advocate, who apart from reconstructing the Fourth with Philip Littlemore, performs these pieces with a dazzling wit and style … I have a notion that Shelley's bravura might have unsettled even the composer himself, particularly in the Fourth's finale where the soloist's effortless command of the music is absolutely stunning. Amazingly, Shelley is able to conduct as well as play these concertos with the Tasmanian players wonderfully supportive' (Classical.net)

Piano Concerto No 4 in A flat major, Op 127
composer
1835

Maestoso brillante  [13'36]
Adagio  [6'03]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Between the First Piano Concerto and the Piano Concerto No 4 in A flat major Op 127 (1835) came Kalkbrenner’s Piano Concerto No 2, Op 80, his Piano Concerto No 3, Op 107, and the Grand Concerto for two pianos, Op 125, which appeared in the same year as Op 127. As well as a conventional line-up of strings and woodwinds, two trumpets and two horns, the score of the A flat Concerto has parts for alto, tenor and bass trombones.

Unlike the D minor Concerto, Kalkbrenner unleashes his soloist after a mere twenty bars (Maestoso brillante), allowing just two bars respite before the tutti at 5'47. At 6'48 a fermata concludes in E flat major; E flat becomes D sharp (the leading note into E major) and the tempo changes to Maestoso e poco più allegro. A brilliant episode in C major leads to the recapitulation and coda. After these breathless thirteen-plus minutes, the opening of the brief Adagio (the second movement) has the undercurrent of a funeral march. Though the key signature bears the four flats of A flat major, the music is in fact in A flat minor. There is an abrupt transition to E major at 1'39 and a dramatic passage at 3'22 taking us back to the home key. After a brief Presto flourish, the movement dies away. Robert Schumann described the Concerto as ‘manufactured pathos and affected profundity’; whether it is particularly apt for this Adagio must be a moot point.

The Rondo finale in 2/4 (Allegro non troppo) suffers from a series of somewhat vapid themes, though Kalkbrenner is adept at dressing them up in sparklingly effective writing for the soloist (and, incidentally, gives his underused trombones a few moments to shine). At 5'16 he modulates ingeniously in the space of a few bars from A flat to A major (seventh) to F sharp major and a fugal octave passage in B minor. The final pages throw rapid triplet runs, octave leaps and fast repeated notes at the soloist as, with increasing excitement, the Concerto rushes to its conclusion.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2006

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