> WEBER Piano Concertos Demidenko [RW]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Piano Concerto No 1 in C major, Op.11 (1810)
Piano Concerto No 2 in E flat, Op.2 (1812)
Konzertstück Op.79 (1821)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
Rec. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, UK 1994
The Romantic Piano series: Vol. No. 10
HYPERION CDA 66729 [57.07]


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This trilogy represents a breath of fresh air and a delight to hear amongst the repertoire of romantic piano concertos generally. Only over the last decade has an interest been shown in recording these works. One good early (1993) recording has appeared in turn on a number of budget labels from ZYX Classics to VOX with Hamburger Symphoniker under Köhler and can be used as a benchmark for this Hyperion version. It is understandable that someone like Mackerras with a deep interest in the romantic masters would find the recording of these sumptuous works irresistible.

Weber was only basically educated in music by his father before sending him to Michael Haydn in Salzburg for more serious study. Weber became an excellent pianist and undertook tours throughout Germany, His own piano music was of a standard comparable with that of the great Beethoven and although he could have followed Mozart as a model, he explored new directions and was equally imaginative in his compositions such as the ones found here. As the CD notes state, he took advantage of his gift for pearling runs and athletic leaps, thirds and sixths, octaves and glissandi. He exploited to the full his enormous long-fingered hand-stretch of around a twelfth. Thus as the composer Julius Benedict remembers, "Weber produced the most startling effects of sonority and possessed the power to elicit an almost vocal quality of tone."

The First Concerto opens with a bouncy and uplifting theme that yields interesting elements of surprise. The flow is melodic and Schubertian in parts yet more progressive. A chamber orchestral scoring is provided to carry the romantic Adagio, and a lovely dancing cross-rhythm runs through the Presto finale. One is aware of Mozartian and Beethovenian characteristics in some of the passages.

The Second Concerto pays homage to Beethovenís Emperor Concerto. An admirer of Beethoven, Weber bought a copy of the score in 1811 and wrote this concerto in the same key a year later. He likewise includes a partially muted string Adagio in B major plus a lively galloping closing rondo in 6/8 time. Called Ďa gemí by Benedict I find this work with its stately opening equally impressive as Beethovenís concerto with interesting dialogue between soloist and orchestra. In the first movement a hint of Invitation to the Dance appears and as does a passage he must have remembered later when composing Der Freischütz. The beautifully composed and lovely Rondo: Presto is played by Demidenko and Mackerras with much panache (tk6).

The Konzertstück is a structured concerto with four seamless movements. It contains emotive ideas Ė parting, lament, misery, consolation, reunion and jubilation. A slow introduction is followed by a brilliant Allegro passionato (with Adagio bridge), a heavy-beat march and a lively Presto finale.

Nikolai Demidenko is first rate with his interpretation and certainly has the edge over Maria Littauer. (I cannot speak in relation to any other recordings.) His subtle phrasing and enjoyable glissandos are charming. Both soloist and conductor are well matched and sense each otherís subtleties. The recording is not as crisp as the spectacular recently released Saint-Saëns concerto set but the balance is good.

This Hyperion disc was first released in 1994.

The adequate notes are provided in English, French and German with a focus more on the pieces than the composerís background.

Raymond J Walker


Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto Series

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