Danny Driver / Rebecca Miller

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 70: Beach, Chaminade, Howell

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Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series reaches its 70th album with this program of three concertos by women. The ongoing success of the series suggests that audiences are ready and waiting for wider repertoire, and pianist Danny Driver and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Rebecca Miller deliver a real find here. The Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, Op. 45, of American composer Amy Beach has been performed and recorded, but it's been in search of a recording that captures the autobiographical quality of the work, well sketched out in the booklet notes by Nigel Simeone. Essentially, Beach faced creative repression from her religious mother and to a lesser extent from her husband, who allowed her to compose, but only rarely to perform. These experiences, it may be said, poured out in this towering Brahmsian, four-movement piano concerto, which sets up an unusual quality of struggle between soloists and orchestra. It's this dynamic that's so well captured by Driver and Miller (who happen to be married to each other). Sample the opening movement, which has lacked this quality in earlier performances. Also worthwhile is the Concertstück in C sharp minor, Op. 40, of French composer Cécile Chaminade, now rarely represented on programs, but at one time so popular in the U.S. that there were more than 200 Chaminade Clubs there. Driver also gets the light, zippy quality of this work, which endeared Chaminade to audiences, if not to critics, for many years. The opening Piano Concerto in D minor of Britain's Dorothy Howell is less obviously in need of revival, but this recording is worth the time and money for the Beach performance alone.

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