> d'Albert Piano Concertos [GL]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Eugen d’ALBERT (1864-1932)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B minor (first recording)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in E major
Piers Lane (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Alun Francis
rec Glasgow on 14/15 May 1994
The Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto Series – No. 9
HYPERION CDA66747 [65:39]


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Eugen d’Albert was born in Glasgow into a family of Italian extraction. His family settled in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, over the border in England, where his father ran his own band and published a book on ballroom etiquette. D’Albert was one of the first students at what is now London’s Royal College of Music. He had an astonishing piano technique, and he distinguished himself by playing the Schumann Piano Concerto before the Prince of Wales. He went to Vienna at the invitation of Hans Richter and later studied for a little while with Liszt at Weimar. He was to become a German composer because Germany was the centre of music in those days. He never became a German national; but kept his British passport until the First World War, then became a Swiss citizen.

D’Albert’s better known and more frequently recorded E-major Piano Concerto, composed in 1893, is a formidable, short and concise work. It is cast in one continuous span but in four basic contrasting movements flowing into each other. It is cyclic in form and written in the grand "heart-on-sleeve" manner of the late Romantic tradition, with many taxing, bravura passages contrasted with quieter, more lyrical sections. It is reminiscent of Liszt and Schumann, particularly in the opening of the especially appealing slow movement. It abounds in good tunes. In the rival Berlin recording (0091792 BC) that couples D’Albert’s captivating Cello Concerto, soloist Siegfried Stöckigt takes the heroic high road and his reading is fast and very exciting, leaving one gasping at his risky dexterity. He is very well supported by Günther Herbig who conducts the Berlin Sinfonie-Orchester in a big, opulent accompaniment. On this Hyperion recording, Piers Lane takes a slightly more relaxed view and he is more articulate and poetic, his hesitations and pauses are as eloquent as his chords. His slow movement is particularly beguiling. Both interpretations are agreeable depending on mood.

The earlier Piano Concerto in B minor is written on a larger scale (it is nearly forty minutes long). It makes heavy demands on the soloist – and might be thought to show off an excessive display of pianistic virtuosity (of which d’Albert was understandably very proud.) It was dedicated to Liszt and it is directed to be played in one movement. Moments of tremendous late Romantic heroic bravura contrast with tender romantic melodies. As Martin Eastick shrewdly observes, "The B minor concerto is a young composer’s tour de force and a reminder that at heart d’Albert remained a pianist rather than a composer."

Nevertheless this is a very attractive album that will appeal to all those lovers of grandiloquent "heart-on-sleeve" piano concertos

Ian and Grace Lace

Complete Hyperion Romantic Piano Series

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