Rosemary Tuck / Richard Bonynge / English Chamber Orchestra

Carl Czerny: Second Grand Concerto in E flat major; Concertino Rondino

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Pianist Rosemary Tuck has been a champion of the works of Carl Czerny, which have seen a modest revival in recent years. Czerny's prolific nature, the thinking goes, hurt him, as no less than Brahms noted, and there is worthwhile stuff among the stream of minor work. The trouble is that no work has emerged as a favorite, as a Czerny masterwork. Tuck here offers a work that might, for it came directly out of Czerny's association with Beethoven, who did, it must be conceded, champion his student. That work is the Grand Concerto No. 2 in E flat major for piano and orchestra, which unlike most of Czerny's output, was apparently never published. Czerny, aged 21, wrote it shortly after he gave the premiere of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 ("Emperor"), and Tuck suggests that it was an homage of sorts. In fact, it's hard to say. The work is indeed in E flat major, like Beethoven's concerto, and with its 20-minute first movement and 45-minute total length, it announces similar ambitions. Some passages seem to suggest the "Emperor" concerto, but elsewhere there are melodies closer to the Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 ("Pastoral"). In short, it's a bit of a mess, although it does show Czerny's virtuosity abundantly. It's flanked by other works that offer a sampling of Czerny's writing. Perhaps the most convincing is the Rondino sur un Thème favori de l'Opéra Le Maçon d'Auber, Op. 127, where Czerny is not responsible for the main material, and where he strikes a nice balance between pianism and melodic content. Tuck delivers clean performances that one imagines might have pleased Czerny. A major plus is the lively accompaniment by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge, nearly a nonagenarian when this album appeared in late 2019. As good a place as any to start exploring Czerny.

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