Markus Becker / Constantin Trinks / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 79: Pfitzner, Braunfels

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The Piano Concerto in E flat major of Hans Pfitzner and the Tag- und Nachtstücke of Walter Braunfels, dating from 1922 and 1933-1934, respectively, may be the latest works chronologically in the Hyperion label's "Romantic Piano Concerto" series. Both works have been forgotten, and all that really survives of the output of either of these composers is Pfitzner's opera Palestrina (1917). However, the Piano Concerto, in four movements lasting almost 45 minutes in total, is worth hearing. It's something like the piano concerto Richard Strauss never wrote, not counting the youthful Burleske in D major. The work announces its attentions right at the beginning with big E flat sounds that bring Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 74 ("Emperor") to mind, and from there it spins out a lengthy structure that seems to be trying to hold the classical sonata form together by sheer force of will. You may find it overblown, but sample "Pomphaft, mit Kraft und Schwung" to hear the full effect. The Braunfels Tag- und Nachtstücke ("Day and Night Pieces") have an entirely original concept. The five movements extend the piano character piece to full concerto dimensions. To these ears the work, although the movements are shorter, is a bit less coherent than the Pfitzner concerto, but anyone interested in the interwar scene and aware that not everything sounded like Schoenberg or Hindemith, will want to hear it.

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