Howard Shelley’s third disc in Hyperion’s traversal of the complete extant piano concertos by Ignaz Moscheles brings us triumphant performances of the fourth and fifth concertos which are complemented by a spirited rendition of the Recollections of Ireland, composed almost by way of thanks for divine deliverance from a storm-tossed crossing of the Irish Sea in 1826.
Piano Concerto No 4 represents the culmination of Moscheles’ output in the genre during his years as a touring virtuoso, and the results are every bit as pyrotechnical as this might lead one to expect. A precurser of the Chopin and Schumann concertos, here delicious melody and rumbustious joie de vivre combine (alongside a version of The British Grenadiers) in a work of immediate and lasting appeal.
The fifth concerto is something rather different, its audaciously progressive musical language initially proving something of a turn-off for contemporary audiences expecting ‘more of the same’. However, the work bristles with virtuosic display and strong themes – every bit a tribute to its composer’s idol, Beethoven, whose own C minor concerto provides the opening motif of Moscheles’ closing movement.
Recollections of Ireland is a crowd-pleasing fantasia based on four popular Irish tunes (‘The Groves of Blarney’ being better known today as ‘The Last Rose of Summer’) and provides Moscheles ample scope to indulge his passion for a good tune – and his facility at interweaving several good tunes …
The accompanying booklet gives full details of the works, of course, and also throws down the gauntlet to the interested listener: Hyperion is committed to recording the missing Piano Concerto No 8 – if anyone can shed any light on where the music might be, many years of international searching having so far drawn a blank.