These two works have all of the advantages and disadvantages of Romantic virtuoso piano concertos, only in different proportions. On the plus side, you have brilliant and grateful solo writing and some delicious material. On the minus side, there is the tendency to sprawl, the utterly inept handling of first movement form, and the general lack of rhythmic backbone and sense of ongoing motion. Composed in the 1880s or so, both are very much of their time and place, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Both Oswald and Napoleão were born in the same year, 1852, the former dying in 1931, the latter in 1917. Oswald (no relation to Lee Harvey) was Brazilian, Napoleão Portuguese, although both spent the lion’sRead more share of their careers in Brazil. On evidence here, Oswald was the better composer. Yes, his concerto features a relatively non-developing first movement, but the central slow movement is gorgeous, and the finale pithy and not a note too long.
Napoleão based his concerto, pretty obviously, on Saint-Saëns’ Second, only more so. It starts with a twenty minute long Andantino maestoso (not a promising designation), continues with a charming scherzo and concludes with a finale hopefully designated “allegro” without any special understanding of what that means, formally speaking. The problem with this piece is that after the scherzo, which plays for four minutes, you still have thirty-two to go. Oswald’s slow movement, by contrast, comprises a third of the work, all to the good.
Certainly both pieces receive persuasive advocacy from Artur Pizarro and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Martyn Brabbins. The soloist plays almost continuously throughout both concertos, mostly accompanied discretely by strings, with the occasional woodwind solo popping up for contrast. The full orchestra chimes in at nodal points and climaxes, but essentially this is the soloist’s show, with acres of filigree and arpeggiation employed with the same ubiquity as a tremolo in a Bruckner symphony.
Still, Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series is one of the glories of the modern discography, and whatever the quality of the music this latest release (volume 64!) is beautifully made by all concerned–a no-brainer acquisition for collectors. And you will listen to the Oswald, at least, more than once, particularly for the Adagio.
Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 10by Henrique Oswald Performer:
Artur Pizarro (Piano)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Period: Modern Venue: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Length: 30 Minutes 9 Secs.
ExcellentNovember 15, 2014By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"The spirit of Brazil and Portugal, encompassed in the Romanticism of the late 19th century, is wonderfully displayed by two engaging piano concertos by Henrique Oswald and Alfred Napoleao. With Artur Pizarro at the piano, Martin Brabbins leads the BBC National Symphony Orchestra of Wales in a warm, heartfelt performance that fully measures up to the standards of Hyperion's superb Romantic Piano Concerto series. The works are conventionally structured and of moderate intensity, with plenty of melody, lyricism, and a sense of calm optimism that adds proportion and balance. This is a fine recording- pianist, conductor, and orchestra all do a great job with these highly attractive scores. Needless to say, Hyperion's sonics are superb, so I have no reservations whatsoever in giving this new disk a strong recommendation."Report Abuse