THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol.
Moscheles: Piano Concerto in G Minor, Op. 58 (c.1818)
Hiller: Piano Concerto in F-sharp Minor, Op69
Litolff: Piano Sinfonique in E-flat Major, Op.45
Reinecke: Piano Concerto No.1 in F-sharp, Op. 72
Mendelssohn: Capriccio Brilliant for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 22
Rheinberger: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra,
Philharmonia Hungarica/Othmar Maga,
Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg/Louis de Froment & Pierre Cao,
Berlin Symphony Orchestra/Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach
VOXBOX CDX5065 [CD1
This is one of seven volumes that represent the art some of the performing
virtuoso-playing composers of the Romantic tradition. The notes tell us that
each volume attempts stylistically to integrate composers who belonged to
the same milieu and enjoyed professional relationships with each other.
Moscheles' Concerto, Op. 58 is said to be one of his finest works,
showing the classical influences of Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. From
the opening of the Allegro moderato one can be forgiven for thinking
you are listening to an orchestral score composed by Mendelssohn. However
the piano lines have more of a Saint-Saëns ring about them. Bold statements
punctuate gently-flowing passages with lightweight orchestral involvement.
The Adagio contains recitative-like figures with background tremolos
that eventually lead into an Allegro agitato. This movement skips
along with a bright theme that is extemporised and builds to a suitable coda
and rousing close.
Hiller's compositions are largely forgotten now but in his day his
works reached the concert hall. His piano impromptu Zur Gitarre was
played by Clara Schumann. His Concerto, Op. 69 contains some lovely
melodies and has for too long been neglected, a point the CD notes confirm.
Hiller premiered the work as soloist in Amsterdam (1856). It was performed
in the presence of royalty nine years later, so we must assume that the work
enjoyed a certain degree of popularity. This was one of the first piano concertos
to utilise the key of F-sharp Minor and is full of ideas also original for
the time. A Moderato movement opens the piece with an energetic main
theme (without introduction) and use of alternating octaves - a device copied
by d'Albert 28 years later. The emotional Andante espressivo is filled
with ravishingly romantic melodies. It has a feeling of Liszt about it. A
purposeful Allegro con fuoco closes the concerto.
Henry Litolff was taken as a pupil for the composer Moscheles. The
older man declared Litolff so good that a public performance was arranged
which he gave at the age of fourteen. Later as a proficient pianist,
Litolff undertook concert tours on the continent and wrote his
Concerto Sinfonique about 1846. Berlioz monitored his progress and
referred to Litolff "as one of our best composers", praising his
knowledge, inspiration, mobility of melodic style, and excellence of
orchestration. At 39 minutes it is a long concerto and with a four movement
structure broke new ground. There is freshness to this composition that gives
me the impression of sprightly youthful eagerness. Why this amazing work
is not better known I can't guess, but it would be ideal for part of a Proms
An Allegro provides a majestic opening, with accelerating energy and
an introduction of two principal ideas. In the Scherzo a Beethovenian
hunting scene comes to mind, with echoes of the Ninth. The piano part complements
the orchestra-dominated main theme. A peaceful Andante conveys a lyrical
mood of relaxing charm, the piano syncopating a flowing horn melody. A bold
Furioso moves with urgency before it breaks into a trumpet-led rendering
of the Dutch National song "Wein Neerlands". The song weaves in and out of
the movement before virtuosity brings the piece to an energetic close.
Carl Reinecke is usually remembered for the cadenzas he wrote to other
composers' classic concertos rather than for his own compositions. This is
despite the fact that he was a prolific writer of around 300 works. His writing
is not as demonstrative as the other composers in this set: there is more
of a relaxed feel to this concerto. Reinecke made his debut as a violinist
at 11 but toured Europe as a pianist, before turning to the education of
others. Reinecke settled in Leipzig where he became professor of piano
and composition at the Conservatorium.
In Reinecke's Concerto the Allegro is a good vehicle for
virtuosity, but there is practically no partnership with the orchestra. In
the Adagio, sincerity of purpose is given with its meandering theme.
A bold statement from the strings opens the Finale Allegro and rippling
measures maintain momentum throughout the movement.
Mendelssohn's Capriccio brilliant is well known and needs little
introduction. Written as a fantasia for piano and orchestra it is constructed
on four themes - introductory theme, fortissimo theme, pianissimo theme,
and piano theme. It is here played with sensitivity and purpose.
Rheinberger is better known for his organ compositions rather than
the writing of orchestral works. He studied under Lachner and became an intimate
friend of Schubert, yet his music is often linked with Brahms.
His Concerto deviates in its opening Moderato from the Beethoven pattern
by dispensing with the orchestral exposition and replacing it with a short
preludial statement; the piano entering with the main idea and acting as
a dominant force. An Adagio follows with lyrical delicacy and appealing
musical ideas. The orchestra contributes with important thematic and colouristic
contributions throughout. A piano solo opens the Allegro energico
with a flourishing statement and running into a fast-flowing theme before
returning to the heroic idea of the first movement.
This set contains rarely recorded works of the lesser-known composers who
provided a valuable contribution to the development of music through the
19th Century. The notes make interesting reading and give useful
historical information. Descriptions of the works could have been fuller
and more detailed.
Michael Ponti plays with considerable dexterity, and handles both powerful
and sensitive passages with considerable skill. The orchestras play competently
under knowledgeable conductors.
The analogue recordings of the '70s are clear without the extraneous noise
that can show up in CD transfers of this period. They are pleasantly balanced
for concerto recording with the piano placed nicely forward on the sound-stage.
In the Reinecke concerto, a slight metallic timbre is noticed with the piano.
A slight lack of dynamic range causes some detail of the orchestra to be
hidden but this is not an obtrusive problem. There is no obvious mismatching
in the acoustics or microphone placements between the different venues (not
I have a great deal of affection for this VoxBox series and further reviews
will follow from John Quinn and Ray Walker. The analogue recordings may sometimes
be dimensionally challenged but the missionary zeal of Ponti and others burns
no less brightly now than it did back then in the 1960s and 1970s. Ponti,
Vox and their second and third league German 'house' orchestras were true
pioneers opening up swathes of repertoire. If the orchestras were not top-flight
they often played their hearts out for these sessions and a small city orchestra
in Germany can be the match for much greater city orchestras outside Germany.
It would be wonderful to know more about the adventures of the Vox/Candide
team as they trekked across Germany making recording after recording. Perhaps
someone from the recording team would be able to write an article for the
In this focus on Vox it is far too easy to neglect Genesis whose romantic
era CDs (all 15 of them) are still available. Of course Hyperion are matchless
in this area. Ted Perry's recording quality is modern and the choice of soloists
has shown acumen, flare and commitment in a field where the danger of
time-serving, note-spinning is always present. Hyperion's Romantic Piano
Concerto series has, over more than thirty volumes (still growing!), reached
far wider and deeper than Genesis or Vox ever did. After all they have done
all three Medtners, plus concertos by da Motta and Holbrooke to name only
two of the most obscure. The Hyperions are also widely and easily available.
The Vox series is by no means entirely a nostalgic journey for misty-eyed
old duffers who discovered the repertoire through grainy black vinyl and
heavy card boxes. All listeners attuned to the romantic effusion will find
great pleasure in these recordings. That edge of discovery, of being a
pathfinder, lends sentiment and scintillation to Vox's valuable but extremely
inexpensively priced series.
Genesis: http://www.genesisrecords.com/ www.crystalrecords.com
THE VOX SERIES OF ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTOS
The links below are to Amazon.com where the 2CD sets retail at around $10
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 1
Henselt: Concerto in F Minor, Op. 16; Hiller: Konzertstück,
Op. 113; Chopin: Allegro de concert in A Major, Op. 46;
Kalkbrenner: Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 61; Hummel: Piano
Concerto, Op. 110 "Les Adieux"
Michael Ponti, Jerome Rose, Hans Kann, pianists
Philharmonia Hungarica, Othmar Maga; Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg, Pierre
Cao; Berlin Symphony, Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach; Hamburg Symphony, Heribert
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO Vol. 2
Moscheles: Concerto in G Minor, Op. 58; Hiller: Concerto in F-sharp
Minor, Op. 69; Litolff: Concerto Sinfonique in E-flat Major, Op. 45;
Reinecke: Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 72; Mendelssohn:
Capriccio brilliant for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 22; Rheinberger:
Piano Concerto, Op. 94
Michael Ponti, Piano
Philharmonia Hungarica, Othmar Maga; Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg, Louis
de Froment & Pierre Cao; Berlin Symphony, Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach.
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 3
Moszkowski: Concerto in E Major, Op. 59; Scharwenka: Concerto
in C Minor, Op. 56; Rubinstein: Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 70;
Thalberg: Concerto in F Minor, Op. 5
Michael Ponti, Piano
Philharmonia Hungarica, Hans Richard Stracke & Othmar Maga; Hamburg Symphony,
Richard Kapp; Westphalian Symphony Orchestra, Richard Kapp
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 4
Raff: Concerto in C, Op. 185; Mosonyi: Piano Concerto;
Stavenhagen: Concerto, Op. 4; Liszt: Malediction;
D'Albert: Concerto No. 2 in E, Op. 12: Bronsart: Concerto in
F-sharp, Op. 10
Michael Ponti, Jerome Rose & Roland Keller, pianists
Hamburg Symphony; Richard Kapp, conductor; Southwest German Chamber Orchestra,
Pforzheim; Paul Angerer, conductor; Westphalian Symphony Orchestra; Richard
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 5
Medtner: Concerto No. 3, Op. 60; Balakirev: Concerto in E-flat;
Liapunov: Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, Op. 28; Sinding: Concerto
in D-flat; Goetz: Concerto in B-flat, Op. 18
Michael Ponti & Roland Keller, pianists
Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg; Pierre Cao, conductor; Westphalian Symphony
Orchestra; Siegfried Landau, conductor; Berlin Symphony Orchestra; Jörg
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 6
Macdowell: Concerto No. 2 in D, Op. 23; Beach: Concerto, Op. 45;
Gershwin: Concerto in F; Barber: Concerto Op. 38
Eugene List, Mary-Louise Boehm & Abbott Ruskin, pianists
Westphalian Symphony Orchestra; Siegfried Landau, conductor; Berlin Symphony
Orchestra; Samuel Adler, conductor; M.I.T. Symphony Orchestra; David Epstein,
THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO, Vol. 7
Weber: Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11; Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major,
Op. 32; Konzertstück, Op. 42; Volkmann: Konzertstück, Op.
42; Berwald: Concerto No. 1 in D Major; Alkan: Concerto da camera
No. 2 in C-sharp Minor; Schumann: Introduction and Allegro appassionata
in G Major, Op. 92; Raff: "Ode to Spring," Op. 76; Liszt: Totentanz
for Piano and Orchestra
Michael Ponti, Roland Keller & Jerome Rose, pianists
Berlin Symphony Orchestra; Siegfried Köhler & Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach,
conductors; Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg; Pierre Cao & Louis de Froment,
conductors; Southwest German Chamber Orchestra, Pforzheim; Paul Angerer,
conductor; Hamburg Symphony; Richard Kapp, conductor