Hermann GOETZ (1840-1876)
Piano Concerto in B flat major Op.18 (1867) [40:48]
Józef WIENIAWSKI (1837-1912)
Piano Concerto in G minor Op.20 (c.1858) [28:42]
Hamish Milne (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Michal Dworzynski
rec. September 2009, City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow
HYPERION CDA67791 [69:30]

Two more little known mid-nineteenth century (give or take) concertos make their appearance in Hyperion’s exhaustive Romantic Piano Concerto series. We are now up to volume 52. When it finishes will we have a slimline collected edition? There’s a thought for pianophiles.

Until we do, a few words about the two composers. Goetz was born in Königsberg in 1840, the son of a brewer. One of his teachers was von Bülow, he met Raff and had a so-so acquaintanceship with Brahms. He wrote an impressive Piano Quartet, a Beethovenian symphony, was praised by Bernard Shaw, and died a typically Romantic death: TB at not quite 36. Lublin-born Wieniawski was the younger brother of the more famous Henryk. He took some lessons from Liszt, began a burgeoning career as a pianist, moved to Moscow in 1866, and a decade later to Warsaw. Eventually he moved to Brussels. He died in 1912. Inevitably he left behind a considerably longer work-list than the short-lived Goetz, one of which is the Piano Concerto heard here.

Both concertos are certainly well worth reviving. Goetz’s work is the lengthier, cast in a conventional three movements, and written in 1867, though the cadenza was to appear only later, in 1873. After an arresting horn statement the piano pitches straight in with elegant, conversational, rather Schumannesque declamation. The slow movement is lyrical, lightly but pertinently orchestrated; and again the horns have a strong role to play, their statuesque presence encouraging the soloist to weave dextrous patterns around them. When the grand tune is finally unleashed, chordally on the piano (it’s about 8:50) it’s marvellously eloquent and uplifting, and caused this reviewer to replay it several times on the spot. Just gorgeous. After the slow introduction to the finale we have some ebullient passages, again rather Schumann-orientated but also – though Christopher Fifield’s notes don’t mention it – surely also an explicit nod to Mendelssohn. In any case, it ends an engaging work, played with great sensitivity and panache by Hamish Milne. You may have come across Michel Ponti’s 1973 recording with the Luxemburg Radio and TV Symphony under Pierre Cao [Vox box CDX5068, released in 1992]. This was recorded at around the same time and place that fiddler Aaron Rosand was doing similarly good things for rare violin literature.

Wieniawski’s concerto was written around a decade earlier than Goetz’s. It too has a brief introduction and then the soloist piles in and continues piling in, almost without respite, until the very end. Clearly he was a remarkably agile player, and there’s plenty of virtuosity and panache to be heard. Some of the first movement writing is quite gruff, but a lot is stormy, with a commanding cadenza. Rather like the Goetz, Schumannesque elements infiltrate the writing, perhaps most notably in the central movement where decorative lyricism is to the fore. The finale is full of more unremitting work for the pianist. Knowingly written though it may be, it’s the Goetz that leaves the bigger impression.

Hamish Milne is teamed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Michal Dworzynski. The recorded sound is fine, neither spotlighting nor over-inflating. If you take a chance on the Goetz, the better work, you’ll be rewarded with the virtuosic claims of the Wieniawski.

Jonathan Woolf

It’s marvellously eloquent and uplifting, and caused this reviewer to replay it several times on the spot. Just gorgeous.