Scharwenka: Romantic Piano Concerto 38 - Hamelin/Stern
Classical - Orchestral
Franz Xaver Scharwenka: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 32, Anton Rubinstein: Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor Op. 70
Marc-Andre Hamelin (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Michael Stern (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - November 10, 2005
This is volume 38 of Hyperion’s excellent ‘The Romantic Piano’ series and the first to be issued on SACD.
Both works recorded here were once very popular with audiences, but are now virtually forgotten; at least as far as the concert hall is concerned.
Listening to these stunning performances by the phenomenal Marc-Andre Hamelin you can appreciate the impression they must have made on listeners in the late 19th century.
Scharwenka’s 1st Piano Concerto is dedicated to Liszt who was enthusiastic about the piece and even performed it in 1877.
It was also admired by Hans von Bülow and championed by other great pianists of the time.
The music does sound very Lisztian, but Chopin and Tchaikovsky also come to mind.
Scharwenka is, however, no mere imitator, and this work shows some originality in both its form and melodic invention. Although cast in the usual three movements, it incorporates its brief slow movement into the opening one. The second movement is a brilliant scherzo while the finale, allegro non tanto, is full of huge technical challenges for the pianist. Hamelin thunders up and down the keyboard in grand style but also manages delicacy and lightness when required.
The Rubinstein 4th concerto is somewhat less exuberant and while the melodic invention is good, I did not find that it held my attention to quite the same degree as the Schwarwenka, although it does have a gorgeous slow movement that you will want to play over and over again for Hamelin’s ravishing pianism.
There are other versions of these works on CD in the catalogue, notably that of the Scharwenka by Earl Wild, but Hamelin is his equal.
In both concertos he is expertly supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Michael Stern, son of the late Isaac Stern, making his debut on Hyperion.
The engineering (Simon Eadon/Andrew Keener) is first rate with rich, full-bodied sound. The piano is quite closely recorded, but orchestral detail is not masked, and the surround channels beautifully capture the warm acoustic of the Caird Hall in Dundee.
If you enjoy the better-known piano concertos of Rachmaninov and the composers that I have mentioned above, then you will find this disc is well worth investigating.
Copyright © 2005 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by Mark Novak - January 28, 2006
These are enoyable piano concertos of the second rank. Performances are good (especially Hamelin's solo work) but I was looking for more juice in the orchestral contribution. With works of this nature (i.e. less than top-tier scores), I think it is imperative that everyone be on the same page to convey them at their best. I don't get that from this recording. Sonically, this is also a very average SACD. Though it doesn't state in the booklet, it is apparantly a pcm master (seems to be Hyperions standard mode these days). The orchestral strings sound congested and a bit diembodied from the instruments. Unless you are looking for these works (they are, after all, pretty rare) I would pass on this.
Copyright © 2006 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net