One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones & printers


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

 

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Ignaz MOSCHELES (1794-1870)
Piano Concerto in G minor, Op.58 (1825) [25:24]
Ferdinand HILLER (1811-1885)
Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op.69 (1843) [17:37]
Henry LITOLFF (1818-1891)
Concerto Symphonique No.3 in E flat major, Op.45 (1846) [28:57]
Michael Ponti (piano)
Philharmonia Hungarica/Othmar Maga (Moscheles); Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg/Lous de Froment (Hiller); Berlin Symphony Orchestra/Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach (Litolff)
rec. Marl, Germany 1968 (Moscheles), Luxembourg 1974 (Hiller), Berlin, 1978 (Litolff). ADD
DORON MUSIC DRC4024 [72:13]

Michael Ponti was born in Germany to American parents, but as a young child he was taken back to the United States. His piano studies included time with Gilmour McDonald who himself had been a pupil of the great Polish-American pianist, composer and teacher Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938). Further study was made at Frankfurt with Eric Flinsch, onetime assistant to the pianist and romantic composer Emil von Sauer (1862-1942). During the early nineteen-sixties Ponti entered and won a raft of international piano competitions. His career was launched triumphantly with Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto performed in Vienna: it received rave reviews. Ponti has subsequently toured the world, giving recitals, playing in chamber ensembles and performing major concertos. He has also devoted much time to the promotion of neglected ‘masterpieces’ from the high-romantic era of piano playing. Unfortunately, he suffered from a stroke in the late 1990s which effectively brought his career to a close.

Over the years Michael Ponti has made many records, especially for the old Vox label. These have included concertos by Alkan, Thalberg, Clara Schumann and Moscheles. His romantic piano concerto recordings form the backbone of the 20 CD box entitled The Golden Age of the Romantic Piano Concerto (Brilliant Classics 9021).

The three pieces presented on this disc are all splendid examples of forgotten works, which certainly deserve revival, if not an established place in the repertoire.

I have enjoyed the music of Ignaz Moscheles since coming across the piano concertos and ‘studies’ released by Hyperion on their Romantic Piano Concerto series (Volume 29, Volume 36 & Volume 32). Moscheles spent a great deal of time in the United Kingdom giving concert and recital tours. He is one of those happy composers who has successfully synthesised the classical and romantic traditions. His sits somewhere between Mozart and Mendelssohn but the music of Clementi was also important as were the structural principles of Beethoven. Just occasionally, there are nods to Chopin. The G minor Concerto, Op.58 was written in 1825 when the composer had just turned thirty. I enjoyed Ponti’s playing of this three movement work, however I felt that it was little hard-edged. This is especially so in the slow movement which goes a little too fast and lacks a touch of magic.

Ferdinand Hiller appears to have met everyone in the world of nineteenth century music. After study with Hummel he had been introduced to the aging Beethoven. As a young man, Hiller knew Chopin, Liszt and Berlioz in Paris. Other intimates were Cherubini, Rossini, Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer. He, in turn taught the next generation of composers including Max Bruch and Engelbert Humperdinck. His musical style is one of confidence and brilliance, matching beautifully constructed piano writing with effective orchestration.

The present concerto was written in 1843. I do not warm to this work quite so much as some other examples of the ‘romantic piano concerto’ genre. It is a little lacking in interest. The slow movement, ‘andante espressivo’ is a beautifully meditative piece that explores a wide variety of moods. The finale is rip-roaring, with its ‘Hungarian’ swagger and panache.

Henry Litolff suffers from being a Classic FM ‘one work composer’ and that fame does not even rest on an entire piece, but an extract. Everyone must know the ‘Scherzo’ from the 4th Concerto which sounds as if it could be part of a score for some forgotten incidental music to The Midsummer’s Night Dream. One thing I had not realised about Litolff was that he was born in London of an Alsatian father and Scottish mother. Interestingly he studied with Ignaz Moscheles.

It is good that Doron Records have chosen to present one of the composer’s rarely heard piano concertos. The Third Concerto Symphonique, Op.45 was written in 1846 and is a big, gutsy piece full of melodic and rhythmical interest. The work has been described as having ‘operatic’ overtones to its sound-world. While just a little too overblown for my taste it would make a fine alternative to some more familiar examples of the genre in the concert hall. It is played here with obvious enthusiasm and élan by Michael Ponti: even a superficial hearing reveals a technically demanding (if not near-impossible) piano part.

This is an interesting re-release of the old Vox recordings dating back to the decade between 1968 and 1978 – although they have been reissued on CD before. It is essential listening for all enthusiasts of romantic piano music. I guess that Ponti fans will be glad to replace their vinyl (but not their CDs). There are one or two sound problems with this disc: the piano, in places, does not sound quite right: balance is occasionally askew. The liner-notes are good but not extensive. All three works are available in other recordings, specifically the wonderful Hyperion Romantic Piano series.

In spite of this being an impressive offering I cannot rate this CD over and above the Hyperion releases (Hiller on CDA67655 and Litolff on CDA66889 and CDA67210). As an example, the above-mentioned slow movement of the Moscheles as played by Howard Shelley brings up the goose bumps – Ponti doesn’t.

John France