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Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
Piano Concerto in F, Op.28 (1820?) [27:04]
First recording.
Piano Concerto in a minor, Op.214 (1829) [31:11]
Rondo brillant in B-flat, Op.233 (c.1831) [14:54]
First recording.
Howard Shelley (piano and conductor)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
rec. Federation Concert Hall, Tasmania, Australia, 6-9 May 2015. DDD
The Romantic Piano Concerto 71
HYPERION CDA68138 [73:02]

Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from

Franz Xaver MOZART (1791–1844)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C, Op.14 [25:44]
Piano Concerto No.2 in E-flat, Op.25 [25:02]
Muzio CLEMENTI (1752–1832)
Piano Concerto in C [20:45]
Howard Shelley (piano and conductor)
Sinfonieorchester St. Gallen
rec. Tonhalle, St. Gallen, Switzerland, 9-12 February 2015. DDD.
HYPERION CDA68126 [71:31]

Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from

Like most indifferent pianists who tried to stumble through his or her piano studies, I suppose, the very name of Czerny is something that I’ve steered clear of as much as possible. With Howard Shelley, who has already helped to reconcile me to that other ogre of piano pupils, Muzio Clementi, by recording his Piano Concerto in C with two concertos by Mozart’s son Franz Xaver, I couldn’t resist downloading and listening to the new release.

Before I move on to the Czerny, I note that we seem not to have covered that Clementi/Mozart release. I downloaded it in 24/96 sound from Hyperion some considerable time ago and started to write a review which somehow never got completed.

Having traversed Clementi’s Piano Sonatas and other solo works for Hyperion, who better than Howard Shelley to record his Piano Concerto? It has been recorded before, some time ago by Felicja Blumenthal and Albert Zedda with the Prague Chamber Orchestra (now in a super-budget Brilliant Classics box, about which more anon) and more recently by Bruno Canino and Francesco La Vecchia (Naxos) and by Ksenia Nosikova and William LaRue Jones (Haenssler) but it’s still something of a rarity. With a performance of the quality which Shelley and the Sinfonieorchester St Gallen bring to this recording it clearly deserves to be much more often heard and recorded. I see that Sony have just recorded two of his symphonies: I must investigate.

F X Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.2 has also received a small handful of recordings but No.1 is not otherwise available. Aged just four months when his father died, Franz Wolfgang Xaver himself became something of a piano virtuoso and it’s unfair that his music has lain for so long under the shadow of his brilliant father. The release is included in Hyperion’s Classical Piano Concerto series but the Mozart in particular shows signs of breaking out into the romantic era. It’s all well worth investigating.

I’ve mentioned the Brilliant Classics box of Romantic Piano Concertos. It’s a 40-CD set for around £52, or download in two halves, each for around £10 (5300BR). Either way, it’s a real bargain: some of the concertos are still not otherwise available and most were première recordings when first released, mainly on the Vox label in the 1960s and 70s. There are some real gems, particularly with Michael Ponti as soloist, and these more than outweigh the few duds. His recording of the Henselt concerto, for example, is still worth hearing even though the Hyperion recording is preferable (CDA66717, Marc André Hamelin and Martyn Brabbins, with Alkan – review – CD or download from ).

The only current competition for the Czerny a-minor concerto again comes on the Brilliant Classics label (44899BR, with 2-piano Concerto and two violin concertos by Viotti) and a Naxos album coupled with Grand Nocturne Brillant and some shorter pieces which earned a recommendation from Des Hutchinson – review . I haven’t heard that but I doubt that it excels or even matches the new Hyperion performances. There’s a performance by Felicja Blumenthal and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra conducted by Helmuth Froschauer in the Brilliant Classics box which I mentioned (part 2 of the download version) and it’s also available on Brana (download only). Attractive as this was when it was released with a concerto by John Field on a Vox Turnabout LP in 1972 for £0.99 the enthusiastic performance is no match for Shelley’s and the piano tone was considered brittle even then.

Even Czerny’s advocates don’t make great claims for his music but if you don’t expect too much it’s eminently listenable and enjoyable. In style it’s what you would probably expect from a pupil of Beethoven and a mentor of Liszt without ever approaching the genius of either. Some of the piano passage-work is reminiscent of those dreary studies but such passages sound anything but dreary in the free-wheeling performances of Howard Shelley. On this basis he could probably even make the Czerny studies sound attractive.

Having access to download sites like Hyperion is rather like being the proverbial kid in the candy store and it’s easy to forget the real world. If I didn’t have such access and some kind soul gave me a voucher for any one of Hyperion’s May 2017 releases would I choose the Czerny recording? If your main interest lies in the piano repertoire that’s an emphatic ‘yes’, but baroque enthusiasts will wish to explore the new Hyperion recording of François Couperin’s L’Apothéose de Lully and Leçons de Ténebres (CDA68093) despite my reservations about having each section of the apotheosis announced – Passiontide and Easter 2017 . Those with an interest in renaissance music may wish to explore the music of Jean Guyot (c.1520-1588), whose Te Deum and other sacred music is performed by Cinquecento on which I intend to report in detail (CDA68180). Excerpts from all these and much else can be explored on the free sampler HYP201705 .

I had already begun to shake off my dread of Czerny with three recordings of his music which I reviewed in Download News 2015/9 . The new Hyperion admirably continues the process of his rehabilitation as its predecessor did for Clementi.

Brian Wilson

Previous review (Czerny): Bob Stevenson


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