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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
*Capriccio Brillant in B minor, for piano and orchestra, op.22 (1832) [11:05]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
+Rhapsody for piano and orchestra, op.1 (1904) [22:05]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Piano Concerto in F minor, op.114 (1910) [36:14]
Wolfram Lorenzen (piano)
*+SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart/*Ernest Bour; +Jirí Stárek;
St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra/Reinhard Petersen
rec. Tonhalle, St. Gallen, 11 January 1997 (live); *SDR (now SWR), 21 June 1976; +27 May 1974. DDD, *+ADD.
TROUBADISC TRO-CD 01437 [69:44]

Experience Classicsonline

This is Wolfram Lorenzen's seventh CD for German label Troubadour, who have already released two more since featuring Lorenzen, including a follow-up volume to this one, with piano concertos by Haydn, Weber and Genzmer, again in older recordings. Though obviously a low-profile pianist, at least outside his native Germany, Lorenzen does have massive experience and a huge concerto repertoire, begun even before his first prize at the Sixth International Piano Competition in 1982.
These recordings are mostly from Lorenzen's younger days, and the only one that is DDD is a live recording - sound quality will therefore rightly be a consideration for prospective buyers. Unfortunately the technical quality of the oldest recording, that of Bartók's Rhapsody, is less than perfect. The opening fraction of a second has been chopped off through poor editing, background hiss is noticeable if not prominent, and there is what sounds like an editing join a little before the halfway point, and another just after.
Nevertheless, this work is always worth revisiting to hear the composer Bartók never actually became - a 20th century Liszt. Lorenzen gives an attractive rendition, even if the SWR RSO sounds a little off colour. His performance two years later of Mendelssohn's Capriccio Brillant in B minor, with the help of an improved SWR RSO, serves to remind the listener that this is a piece that deserves reinstatement in regular concert performance, with its highly imaginative opening and virtuosic finale.
Sound quality on this disc is at its best - without being by any means perfect - in the live atmosphere of Reger's Piano Concerto, which has little audience spluttering or rustling to lessen the listening experience. The only prominent cough comes, naturally enough, in the quietest section of the slow movement. But the recording is slightly marred by the over-quick fade to silence at the end of the first and last tracks, presumably to excise applause - in which case: bad editorial choice.
Lorenzen has a particular affinity with Max Reger's music - for Troubadour he has recorded three volumes of Reger's chamber works with piano (TRO-CD 01413-01415), and a very recent one of his piano pieces (TRO-CD 01438). By all accounts Reger was a stolid, serious fellow, and his under-loved, or as he would say, "misunderstood" Piano Concerto attests to that from its grand, dramatic opening which would have struck those determined not to like the unpersonable Reger's music as pompous. On the other hand, is that a hint of humour in the rag-like opening of the finale?
Reger saw his work as an adjunct to Brahms' D minor Concerto, and there is much of Brahms - both concertos, in fact - in it, particularly in the middle and final movements. The grandiose virtuosity and royal sweeping gestures are also reminiscent of the piano concertos of Anton Rubinstein, whose works have suffered a similar fate of relative neglect. But Lorenzen has a good go at regenerating Reger's Concerto with appropriately muscular pianism, fleetness of fingers and, in the reflective, relatively calm expressiveness of the slow movement, a good amount of lyrical finesse. Nevertheless, with the very recent release of Marc-André Hamelin's recording of the Concerto, also with a German radio orchestra, as part of Hyperion's magnificent Romantic Piano Concertos series (vol. 53: see review), Lorenzen's version may have difficulty finding an audience.
The high-quality CD booklet has excellent detail in English and German, and the fact that Troubadour have invested in a native English speaker for the translations is commendable - other labels please note.

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