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The Romantic Piano Concerto Vol 11 - Scharwenka / Hough


Release Date: 09/19/1995 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 66790   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Xaver ScharwenkaEmil Von Sauer
Performer:  Stephen Hough
Conductor:  Lawrence Foster
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here, surely, is the jewel in the crown in Hyperion's absorbing series, The Romantic Piano Concerto; a flawless marriage of composer, performance, recording and presentation. Scharwenka's Fourth Piano Concerto (his own particular favourite) is a far cry from his early, ubiquitous success, the E flat minor Polish Dance (''that fatal romp'' as he called it). Grand, Lisztian ambitions are fulfilled and embellished in writing of the most ferocious intricacy and the tarantella finale, in particular, throws everything at the pianist, seemingly simultaneously. It is therefore hardly surprising that after early triumphs the Fourth Concerto fell into neglect. At its second performance, given in 1910 with Scharwenka as soloist and Mahler as Read more conductor, it was described as being of a ''truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy'', a phrase that, lifted into our own times, encapsulates Stephen Hough's astonishing performance. For here is a scintillating wit and ebullience that will make lesser technicians and stylists weep with envy. As magisterial as it is ear-tickling and affectionate, his playing glows with warmth in the third movement Lento and pulses with the most nonchalant glitter in the finale; one guaranteed to strike down less intrepid and fluent spirits with St Vitus's dance.

Then there is Sauer's First Concerto, its key a warm, over-the-shoulder memory of Chopin's E minor Concerto, yet with a style and content to make even the least susceptible listeners' heads nod and feet tap. The Cavatina is as luscious and enchanting as the finale is teasingly brief and light-hearted. Throughout, haunting melodies are embroidered with the finest pianistic tracery and, once again, the performance is bewitching. In the Cavatina Hough's caressing, fine-spun tone and long-breathed phrasing are a model for singers as well as pianists, and in the finale there is a lightly deployed virtuosity that epitomizes his aristocratic style.

Naturally, the spotlight falls unashamedly on the soloist in such music, but the orchestra have no small part in the proceedings, and Lawrence Foster and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra are superbly resilient and enthusiastic, with strings that sing their hearts out, notably in the third movement of the Sauer. These are both premiere recordings, and the sound and balance are exemplary. But my final word must go to Stephen Heliotis who first offered these concertos to Hough for his delectation and unremitting toil, and whose accompanying notes deserve separate publication for their wit and perspicacity. A record, then, to rival and, indeed perhaps surpass Stephen Hough's early Gramophone Award-winning disc of Hummel concertos (Chandos, 6/87).

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone [11/1995]
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Piano no 4 in F minor, Op. 82 by Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Stephen Hough (Piano)
Conductor:  Lawrence Foster
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  Town Hall, Dudley, Warwickshire, England 
Length: 39 Minutes 18 Secs. 
2. Concerto for Piano no 1 in E minor by Emil Von Sauer
Performer:  Stephen Hough (Piano)
Conductor:  Lawrence Foster
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1900 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  Town Hall, Dudley, Warwickshire, England 
Length: 29 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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