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Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor Op.89 (1887) [15:34]
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor Op.90 (1887) [23:51]
Felix DRAESEKE (1835-1913)
Piano Concerto in E flat major Op.36 (1885-86) [30:28]
Markus Becker (piano)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Michael Sanderling
rec. Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin, January 2008  
HYPERION CDA67636 [69:59] 
Experience Classicsonline

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 international consciousness.

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. 

The 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. 

Felix 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. 

Excellent 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.

Jonathan Woolf 


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