Piano Concerto No 2 in B Flat, Op.
An introduction to the work written and presented by Jeremy
Includes a complete performance
by Jeno Jando (piano) with BRT Philharmonic, conducted by Alexander
This is one of the first releases in a new series, 'Classics Explained' from
Naxos. On the evidence of this issue, the series promises much.
This release consists of a pair of well-filled discs containing a detailed
introduction to each movement. Jeremy Siepmann, the writer and presenter,
includes copious musical illustrations, followed by a complete performance
of the movement in question. The significance of Siepmann's contribution
can be gauged by the fact that the performance itself occupies less than
Accompanying the CDs is a booklet of over 90 pages. The contents include
a biographical note about the composer, a short note placing the work in
the context of his overall output and another which quotes some contemporary
opinions about the work when it was new. The full text of Siepmann's spoken
commentary is printed, incorporating all the CD cueing points, of which there
We also get an interesting essay entitled, "Challenges to the Interpreter";
a detailed "Structural Overview" of the work; a glossary of musical terms;
and several other essays which are less directly related to the work itself
but are no less helpful to the listener. These cover such topics as "Ways
of Listening"; and a "Guide to the Composer's Tools". All in all, an extremely
comprehensive package of material which is clearly designed to be dipped
into rather than absorbed at one sitting. The tone of the writing, presumably
all by Siepmann, is straightforward, clear and informative.
The spoken commentary is, of its kind, first class, as might be expected
from an experienced broadcaster such as Jeremy Siepmann. He explains the
course of each movement in detail, signposting every significant musical
event and providing a helpful musical illustration for each. His style is
lively and he never lapses into jargon. His explanation is clear and perceptive
and the generous number of musical examples means that he can chart the course
of each movement very lucidly. He offers the newcomer to this work a first
class exposition, which, as it should, whets the appetite for a full performance.
This release operates at more than one level. Yes it is a good "beginner's
guide" but someone who knows the work well can also listen to it with profit.
The more experienced listener may not agree with every one of Siepmann's
comments or insights - after all there is no "right answer" when listening
to music. However, it is evident that he has a comprehensive knowledge of
the concerto and the format of his talk and the documentation is such that
any music lover might well say more than once; "I never noticed that before".
I've known and loved this work for many years but I never found the commentary
condescending or superficial. On the contrary, I feel I now know more about
the concerto and can better appreciate it .
I wondered how someone who loves music but has not heard the concerto before
might react. Fortunately, just such a person was at hand. My son, James,
is a keen pianist and is studying music at A Level but he had yet to encounter
this particular work. Deliberately, I did not discuss the discs with him,
I just asked him to listen independently and give me his reaction to the
CDs and to the documentation. His verdict was identical to mine. He found
the presentation helpful both for the beginner or for the more experienced
listener and commented that the package contained everything he needed to
learn about the piece. He found Siepmann's talk clear and helpful with just
the right amount of musical terminology and felt that the musical examples
were particularly useful. Above all, the talk made him keen to hear the whole
The complete performance on the discs (and from which the extracts are taken)
is one which was recorded a few years ago by Naxos's "house" pianist, Jeno
Jando though you have to look very closely at the packaging to discover the
identities of the performers. I think this is unfortunate; after all, they
are significant contributors to the project. The account of the concerto
is a perfectly serviceable one but on this occasion it is not really appropriate
to provide a critique of the performance itself.
I do have one small reservation concerning the layout of the discs. The complete
performance of each movement follows immediately after the commentary on
that movement. Thus movements 1 and 2 are dealt with on the first disc and
the other two occupy the second. I can see the logic behind this arrangement.
However, I do wonder if it might have made more sense to place all the commentary
on one disc and present the concerto complete on the other. As it is, one
cannot hear the concerto straight through without skipping tracks and changing
discs: this could be irritating on repetition. James had a similar reaction.
This is a minor point, however. The key thing is that Naxos has provided
a very full and generous introduction to this enduring masterpiece for about
the same price as one would pay to go to hear the work in concert just
once. The project certainly deserves top marks for presentation.
Both James and I think that Naxos have a winning formula here. I hope that,
as they have done so often in the past, they will have the courage and foresight
to expand the series. This is an excellent way for students and relative
newcomers to music to learn what makes a work "tick". It is also very useful
for others to refresh and expand their understanding of a familiar piece.
John Quinn and James Quinn
See also review by Terry Barfoot and details
of other discs in this series