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Johann Baptist CRAMER (1771-1858)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 16 (1796)
Allegro non tanto
Andante cantabile
Rondo - Allegretto
Piano Concerto No. 7 in E major Op. 56 (1819)
Allegro con spirito
Rondo. Vivo
Piano Concerto No. 8 in D minor Op. 70 (1820)
Moderato assai
Rondo a L’Espagnola
London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley (piano/conductor)
Recorded in St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London 29 and 30 January 2002
[77. 15]

This is a superb disc, every bit as enjoyable from the indefatigable Howard Shelley as one has come to expect over the years. Not only does he play authoritatively and convincingly, admirably accompanied by the London Mozart Players, but (as in the case of his discs of the concertos by Hummel) he continues to find a treasure trove of relatively unexplored pastures which now deserve to be heard in public more often. These are fine concertos, colourful in tone, full of grace and elegance. There were nine in all, published over the thirty-year period 1795 to 1825. The name of Cramer is probably best known today as the firm of publishers still in existence in London but today a far cry from its origins two hundred years ago. He was also one of the signatories to the founding of the Philharmonic Society in 1813, and a founder member of the Board of the Royal Academy of Music in 1822, but he was also a hugely prolific composer of music for the piano (solo and chamber music forming the vast bulk) and pedagogic studies for the instrument. He was, needless to say, a virtuoso player himself, and briefly a pupil of Clementi.

Listening to these highly satisfying works, brightly and expertly recorded in the unlikely surroundings of London’s Kentish Town, one hears plenty of Cramer’s contemporaries with Beethoven and Hummel strongly in there, but Chopin seems just around the corner via the influence of John Field. That gives a flavour of the style, but there are others such as that of Mozart and earlier Baroque conventions in this imaginatively tuneful music. Hopefully the other six concertos are on their way in the fullness of time, but meanwhile these three (with No.8 and its captivating final Rondo a L’Espagnola receiving its premiere recording) make the perfect start to a complete collection.

Christopher Fifield

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