In an age of standard-concerto-repertoire catalog overload, it's understandable that you might be inclined to pass over this disc. After all, who needs another Schumann/Grieg coupling, or another Saint-Saëns G minor, and all conducted from the piano? As it happens, Howard Shelley brilliantly pulls off his dual role, and manages to make these warhorses sound fresh and vital from both soloist and orchestral perspectives.
Both the Schumann and Grieg first movements benefit from unusually fleet basic tempos that allow for natural, meaningful, and flawlessly dovetailed rubatos, while both finales' rhythmic zest and crystalline articulation will defy you not to tap your toes. The splendid timpanist particularly gets to shine atRead more the outset of the Saint-Saëns Allegro Scherzando, as does Shelley's lively, impeccably poised fingerwork. If the Presto doesn't quite break previous speed records, the gorgeously blended wind and brass chording and sparkling piano passagework certainly help sustain the music's whirling momentum.
To some ears Chandos' sonics may seem a bit resonant and bass shy, yet I find the ambience very much in keeping with concert hall realism, along with its ideal soloist/orchestra balance. To sum up, this outstanding release is one of the finest in Howard Shelley's prolific, diverse, and highly distinct discography.