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Sir Julius BENEDICT (1804-1885)
Piano Concerto in C minor, Op 45 (1850-1852) [26:15]
Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 89 (1837-1867) [32:59]
Walter MACFARREN (1826-1905) 
Concertstück in E minor (1881) [11:36] 
Howard Shelley (piano)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Howard Shelley
rec. April 2008, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. DDD
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 48 – Benedict & Macfarren
HYPERION CDA67720 [70:50] 
Experience Classicsonline

The Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series shows no sign of running out of material. It stands at the apex of any of the attempts since the 1950s to revive the genre and has long outstripped the Turnabout and Genesis LP series of the 1960s and 1970s. 

The Benedict and Macfarren works are all recording premieres involving much musicological research and reconstruction of scores and parts. For this we have to thank the RAM and John O' Carroll. 

Julius Benedict was born in Germany but became an inextricable part of the London musical scene. a Pupil of Hummel, he made his name with the opera Lily of Killarney in 1865. The Op. 45 Concerto is in three movements as is its op. 89 companion. It’s not quite the glitter, water and Schumann confection I was expecting. In fact the many woodwind lines and romantic interventions at times recall Tchaikovsky and Bellini and the inventive woodwind writing may well remind some listeners of Berwald. As for the flanking movements these sound like a collaboration between Mendelssohn and Beethoven. This is pleasing and melodically grateful writing which avoids any Lisztian Mephisto suggestions. The E flat major concerto is six minutes longer than its predecessor. There are moments when it touches on Dvořák, Schumann,  Beethoven and Ries.  After the repose of the second movement comes the flowingly galant Rondo Brillante with what seems homage to Schumann. Walter Macfarren's Concertstück may well have been premiered at Brighton in 1881. The language of poise and romance here drifts between Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto and Schumann again. 

The notes are by Nicholas Temperley. A distinguished academic who is well placed to set the scene for these satisfying revivals. Howard Shelley and his Tasmanian collaborators approach their task with buoyancy and élan and in this are abetted by a fine audio team. 

These Benedict and Macfarren are further evidence of Hyperion’s steady and dedicated hand. Enthusiasts will lap this issue up. Very much a case of the usual but with surprising and delightful flourishes served up.

Rob Barnett


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