Howard Shelley / Ulster Orchestra

The Classical Piano Concerto: Steibelt - Piano Concertos Nos. 3 "L'orage," 5 "À la chasse" & 7 "Grand concerto militaire"

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Having apparently completed a gigantic series of little-known Romantic piano concerto recordings for Hyperion, pianist Howard Shelley has turned to the Classical era. This, the second release in the Classical series, is a nice find. The pianist/composer Daniel Steibelt is a footnote in musical history, known for losing badly to Beethoven in a piano duel in 1800, but he was popular in Beethoven's time, and the three concertos recorded here show why. They are in a Mozartian (not Beethovenian) style, and they lack the drama of the sonata form. Instead, they they have brilliant piano work and, above all, delightful programmatic effects. Sample track six, the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 64 ("À la chasse"), a kind of fantasy on the 18th-century type of hunt divertimento music. Steibelt sets a variety of solo instruments against his piano to attractive effect. The finale of the Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major, Op. 33 ("L'orage"), with its storm effect, was popular in its time, and it seems likely throughout that Beethoven knew this music even though he dismissed Steibelt's talents. Shelley, conducting from the keyboard, gets the simple fun to be found in the music, and the result is a fine choice for lovers of the Classical era piano concerto.

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