Hyperion’s ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series strides confidently
on with this, the forty-seventh volume in this exploratory and
revelatory marque. It cannily conjoins three works written within
a year by two German composers whose names have long faded from
The first is Salomon Jadassohn, born in Breslau,
who began studies in Leipzig in the revolutionary year of 1848
– though he also studied with Liszt in Weimar - and was later
an esteemed teacher at the Conservatory. His pupils are said
to have included Delius, Grieg, Busoni and Weingartner. The
two Piano Concertos were written in rapid succession in 1887
by which time he was long ensconced in professorial work. The
First is the more compact work. It begins stormily and the piano
pitches straight in. Formally and indeed to an extent thematically
there is quite a debt owed to his erstwhile unofficial teacher
Liszt – it’s a one-movement concerto – but there are also reminiscences
of Chopinesque filigree, maybe even the vaguest vestiges of
another more official Leipzig piano teacher, Moscheles. Nevertheless
there is real lyric generosity here and in the final section,
the most extensive and worked out, a compositional surety that
remains impressive though not perhaps truly memorable.
Second Concerto is longer and even finer. Formally constructed
it shows a more clear debt to a contemporary model, Brahms.
There’s something rather gaunter in the alternating melodic
passages, and the downward piano runs are almost explicitly
Brahmsian – they remind one of the finale of the First Concerto.
So too the wind writing, in which we find him attempting to
absorb the influence into the bloodstream of his own perhaps
more obviously Lisztian inheritance. The slow movement is a
brief oasis of calm, warmly textured, and the finale is characteristically
well distributed. We find some Brahmsian imprints again here
but the orchestration remains relatively light, the solo writing
terpsichorean. Of the two concertos it’s my favourite; a finely
honed and absorbing work.
Draeseke is better known not least for his role in the New German
movement, from which he turned away, and his disavowal of his
earlier intense Wagner worship; Wagner was contemptuous of the
one work by Draeseke that he heard, Germania. Liszt had
greatly admired the Piano Sonata of 1867 and like Jadassohn Liszt
remained a strong influence. In 1884 he became a teacher in Dresden
and remained there for the rest of his life. The Concerto is a
much more obviously virtuosic opus than the two by Jadassohn.
Confident and strenuous in the outer movements it sports an appealing
hymnal variations second movement, articulated with great delicacy
and refinement by Markus Becker. The sense of ecclesiastical
quietude is vividly conveyed, considerably more so than in
the rival recording by Claudius Tanski with the Wuppertal Symphony
Orchestra/Hanson (MDG 33509292). The finale is energetic, fluent
and vaguely Beethovenian in affiliation animated by an admixture
of hunting horn adrenalin. Adroit and big boned though this is,
I don’t think it’s as fine a work as Jadassohn’s F minor Concerto.
performances do their all for these three concertos; the recorded
sound is first class and the booklet notes combine insight with
wry comment. Another valuable reclamation from a series that
makes a habit of such things.