Howard Shelley

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 35: Herz: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 7 & 8

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Who the dickens is Heinrich Henri Herz (1803-1888)?

In his time, he was the most successful pianist/composer in Europe, far outselling Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt and rivaled only by Kalkbrenner in the hearts and minds of music lovers. But his time was over 30 years before he died and his 200 published works turned to dust before he did. This recording, the 35th release in Hyperion's The Romantic Piano Concerto series, restores Herz's Piano Concerto No. 1 in A major, his Piano Concerto No. 7 in B minor, and his Piano Concerto No. 8 in E flat major to the land of the living if only for the time it takes to play the disc.

If the listener can take it that long. Herz's music is worse than wholly superficial and totally meaningless: it is almost instantly unctuously ingratiating and utterly and irrevocably irritating. Herz's trivial tunes are annoying, his witless virtuosity is infuriating, his simple structures are blindingly predictable. Howard Shelley plays Herz's music with brilliance and passion. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra plays Herz's music with dedication and conviction. Hyperion wraps Herz's music in their standard gold and ivory sound. But Herz's music is ultimately no more than a series of well-crafted banalities.

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