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Track(s) taken from CDA67595

Caprice in E major, Op 22

first performed on 25 May 1838; probably written in 1836; originally entitled L'hilarité

Howard Shelley (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Howard Shelley (conductor)
Recording details: December 2006
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Phil Rowlands
Release date: October 2007
Total duration: 12 minutes 49 seconds


'Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series, a wealth of novelties and delights, has reached its 43rd issue … neither composer could wish for a more persuasive advocate than Howard Shelley, who, in his customary role as soloist and conductor, gives us an air-spun brilliance and stylistic elegance very much his own. Most refined of virtuosos, he has been admirably presented and recorded' (Gramophone)

'Bennett's sparkling Fourth Piano Concerto, with its lightly worn debts to Mendelssohn and Schumann … the flights of lyrical fancy that make Bennett's piano-writing so engaging. As soloist and conductor, Howard Shelley makes the best possible case for both works' (The Guardian)

'The Concerto (arguably the best of Bennett's extant concertos) has substantial strengths … it is wonderfully interpreted in this reading, which—with Howard Shelley conducting from the keyboard—has a superb 'one-ness' of conception and realisation … Bache's Concerto … is a quite original and surprisingly successful composition. Structurally, the three movements are continuous and run into each other with a mastery which is wholly remarkable, as are the changes of mood within each movement … Shelley is equally fine in this performance, delivering an account which is musically and technically first-rate in every regard, and demonstrating facets of his artistry which are not so widely appreciated as they certainly deserve to be … Shelley and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra give quite enthralling and deeply impressive performances throughout this disc, and the recording is magnificent. Elizabeth French contributes excellent booklet notes' (International Record Review)

'Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series is back on top form with this delightful coupling of works by two English composers … the concerto by Francis Bache receives a much-deserved world premiere recording. If you like the concertos of Mendelssohn then you are sure to fall for these. Few pianists can match Shelley in this repertoire—sparkling, crisp articulation, graceful phrasing, and heartfelt lyricism. And all this while conducting from the keyboard. How does he do it?' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Shelley plays … with felicity and an almost palpable devotion to the repertoire and Hyperion’s engineers present the music with just the right combination of clarity and ambience' (Fanfare, USA)

'Howard Shelley’s recording is superb and in full and lustrous. Sterndale Bennett’s writing is sparkly and agile and Shelley is infinitely dextrous in response. It’s interesting that Mendelssohn conducted the work, for there is much that is Mendelssohnian in it. The virtuosity is of the fluent, sophisticated variety. Yet there is also, rather daringly, a single-line melody (most affecting, too) for piano, simply accompanied by pizzicato strings. The slow movement is a ‘Barcarole’ and has an easy-flow basic rhythm that enables the melodic lines to flourish. A more dramatic middle section finds Shelley impassioned in his delivery of it. This is not the original middle movement; Sterndale Bennett had written (as he called it) a 'Stroll through the meadows', but this had failed to gain any popularity. The fiery middle section gives the concerto some emotional depth. The by turns sturdy and capricious finale forms an apt conclusion' (Classical Source)

'Those of you who have a particular interest in British music will certainly wish to explore the repertoire on this CD. Francis Edward Bache (1833-1858) was a pupil of Sterndale Bennett but died tragically young of TB. The manuscript of his concerto has been in the library of the Royal Academy of Music and might never have been performed until now. Howard Shelley has a way of bringing this music to life; in other hands, it could sound banal. The second movement of Sterndale Bennett's concerto was one of the composer's favourite pieces and, it became very popular and appeared in many arrangements. While there have been other recordings of WSB's concerto, this is certainly one of the finest' (Braille Newspapers)

'Bache's individual style and skill in orchestration are unmistakable … it is a masterly work, consisting of three movements linked by piano cadenzas that crewate the impression of a single movement. Strong vivace passages alternate with lyrical elements, the overall work showing a freshness, undoubted musicality and skill in orchestration. The distinguished pianist/conductor Howard Shelley with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra gives an impeccable performance that will surely stimulate interest in a composer whose early death was a great loss to the English tradition and whose work deserves to be explored' (The Federation of Recorded Music News)
The Caprice in E major, Op 22, received its premiere (under the later discarded title L’hilarité) in London on 25 May 1838 at Bennett’s annual benefit concert, with the composer at the piano. However, it was almost certainly conceived two years prior to that, as a letter from Bennett to James W Davison (music critic of The Times and a friend of Bennett from his teenage years) in November 1836 implies that a first version of the work had been completed and was ready to be performed in Leipzig the following month. Although this performance never materialized, the work was introduced in Leipzig on 21 February 1839, and performed there again in January 1842.

Ignaz Moscheles described the work as ‘spirited and interesting’; Schumann noted the performance in his diary, but left commenting upon it to ‘Z’ in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. It was there written that ‘the Capriccio is a lovely flower bouquet, fresh and fragrant, graceful, fine and beautifully coloured, and as concerns its inner worth, at the same time so modest’. Schumann himself reviewed the score a year later, seemingly believing it to be a new work. And whilst he stated that ‘this Capriccio shares all the excellences we have so often praised in the compositions of this most distinguished of living English composers’, he expressed concern that Bennett’s ‘power of invention has seemed to decline’. Had the Caprice reached him in its proper chronological order this view would, perhaps, have been somewhat different.

The work begins with two solo statements on the piano, accompanied occasionally by pizzicato strings, an opening that could be regarded as strange for a concerted work. As one would expect from a virtuoso pianist-composer, there are plenty of areas of passagework traditional to the form, but also some beautiful moments of interplay between the solo instrument and the orchestra. The British composer Geoffrey Bush (1920–1998) suggested that some of the material used in the Caprice was destined for Bennett’s B minor symphony, which was subsequently abandoned and lost.

Somewhat curiously, when the work was submitted to Friedrich Kistner for publication in 1839, he found that there was no extant complete piano part. On questioning the composer he was told that, as Bennett always played the work from memory, no such copy had previously been required. The work is dedicated to Madame Louise Dulcken (1811–1850), sister of the German violinist Ferdinand David and an émigré pianist who counted Queen Victoria among her pupils. Dulcken described the work as charming in a letter to the composer.

from notes by Elizabeth French © 2007

Le Caprice en mi majeur, op. 22 fut créé (sous le titre L’hilarité, écarté par la suite) à Londres le 25 mai 1838, lors du concert de charité annuel de Bennett, qui tint lui-même le piano. Mais il fut très certainement conçu deux ans auparavant, une lettre de Bennett à James W. Davison (son ami depuis l’adolescence, critique musical au Times) laissant entendre, en novembre 1836, qu’une première version en avait été achevée, qui devait être jouée à Leipzig le mois suivant. Cette exécution n’eut jamais lieu; le Caprice fut cependant bel et bien présenté à Leipzig, mais le 21 février 1839—il y sera redonné en janvier 1842.

Ignaz Moscheles jugea cette pièce «entraînante et intéressante»; Schumann en consigna l’exécution dans son journal intime, mais laissa «Z» en rédiger la critique pour la Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. On peut y lire: «le Capriccio est un charmant bouquet de fleurs, frais et parfumé, gracieux, beau et merveilleusement coloré mais, dans le même temps, d’une valeur intrinsèque tellement chiche». Un an plus tard, Schumann assura la critique de la partition, la prenant apparemment pour une œuvre nouvelle. Et s’il affirma que «ce Capriccio possède toutes les vertus d’excellence si souvent louées chez ce musicien, le plus émérite de tous les compositeurs anglais vivants», il s’inquiéta aussi de ce que «le pouvoir d’invention [de Bennett] semble avoir décliné». Mais peut-être son opinion eût-elle été un peu différente s’il avait connu l’œuvre dans son vrai contexte chronologique.

La pièce commence par deux énonciations solo au piano, accompagnées d’occasionnelles cordes en pizzicato, une ouverture qui peut paraître étrange pour une partition concertante. Comme on pouvait s’y attendre de la part d’un pianiste-compositeur virtuose, ces pages regorgent de passages traditionnellement inhérents au genre, mais recèlent aussi de superbes échanges entre l’instrument solo et l’orchestre. Selon le compositeur britannique Geoffrey Bush (1920–1998), une partie du matériau de ce Caprice pourrait avoir été destinée à la symphonie en si mineur de Bennett, abandonnée puis perdue.

Assez curieusement, lorsqu’on lui proposa de publier cette pièce, en 1839, Friedrich Kistner découvrit qu’il manquait une partie de piano complète. Interrogé, Bennett fit répondre que, comme il jouait toujours cette œuvre de mémoire, jamais le besoin d’une telle copie ne s’était fait sentir. Le Caprice est dédié à Madame Louise Dulcken (1811–1850), sœur du violoniste allemand Ferdinand David et pianiste émigrée, qui compta la reine Victoria parmi ses élèves. Dans une lettre au compositeur, elle qualifia l’œuvre de charmante.

extrait des notes rédigées par Elizabeth French © 2007
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

Das Caprice in E-Dur op. 22 wurde (unter dem später verworfenen Titel L’hilarité) am 25. Mai 1838 in einem von Bennett jährlich veranstalteten Wohltätigkeitskonzert in London uraufgeführt, mit dem Komponisten am Klavier. Das Werk entstand aber aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach schon zwei Jahre zuvor, wie das aus einem im November 1836 geschriebenen Brief Bennetts an James W. Davison (Musikrezensent der Times und Freund Bennetts aus deren Jugendjahren) hervorgeht. In diesem Brief steht, die erste Fassung des Werkes sei abgeschlossen und fertig für eine im darauf folgenden Monat geplante Aufführung in Leipzig. Obwohl diese Aufführung nie zustande kam, hatten die Leipziger trotzdem die Gelegenheit, das Werk zu hören, nämlich am 21. Februar 1839 und noch einmal im Januar 1842.

Ignaz Moscheles beschrieb dieses Werk als „lebendig und interessant“. Schumann trug die Aufführung in sein Tagebuch ein, überließ den Kommentar in der Neuen Zeitschrift für Musik aber „Z“. Dort steht: „Das Capriccio ist ein reizender Blumenstrauß, frisch und duftend, graziös, fein und wundervoll gefärbt, und was seine inneren Werte betrifft, gleichzeitig so bescheiden.“ Ein Jahr später rezensierte Schumann die Partitur noch einmal, offensichtlich überzeugt, dies sei ein neues Werk. Obwohl er schrieb, dass „dieses Capriccio über all die Vortrefflichkeiten verfügt, die wir so häufig in den Kompositionen dieses äußerst beeindruckenden lebenden englischen Komponisten gelobt haben“, fragte er sich auch, ob Bennetts „Einfallskraft zu schwinden scheint“. Hätte Schumann das Caprice in seiner richtigen chronologischen Reihenfolge erhalten, wäre seine Meinung womöglich anders ausgefallen.

Das Werk beginnt mit zwei Sologedanken auf dem Klavier, die gelegentlich von pizzicato spielenden Streichern begleitet werden. So ein Beginn mag für ein Konzertstück merkwürdig erscheinen. Wie man von einem virtuosen Konzertpianisten und Komponisten erwarten würde, gibt es viele für die Konzertform typische Passagen mit rasantem Laufwerk, aber auch ein paar lyrische Momente, in denen das Soloinstrument und Orchester miteinander im Wechselspiel stehen. Der britische Komponist Geoffrey Bush (1920–1998) wies darauf hin, dass Teile des im Caprice genutzten Materials für Bennetts Sinfonie in h-Moll gedacht waren, die ihrerseits aber nie vollendet wurde und nun verschollen ist.

Als das Werk Friedrich Kistner 1839 zur Drucklegung vorgelegt wurde, bemerkte der Verleger, dass die Soloklavierstimme merkwürdigerweise Lücken aufwies. Als Kistner den Komponisten daraufhin ansprach, bekam er von ihm zur Antwort, dass eine vollständige Klavierstimme bisher nie nötig gewesen sei, da er das Werk immer auswendig gespielt habe. Das Werk ist Madame Louise Dulcken (1811–1850) gewidmet, Schwester des deutschen Violinisten Ferdinand David Dulcken und eingewanderte Pianistin, die die Königin Viktoria zu ihren Schülern zählte. Madame Dulcken beschrieb das Werk in einem Brief an den Komponisten als charmant.

aus dem Begleittext von Elizabeth French © 2007
Deutsch: Elke Hockings

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