Howard Shelley / Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56: Friedrich Kalkbrenner

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This release is part of a large series devoted to forgotten concertos of the Romantic era by British pianist Howard Shelley and the unheralded but very strong Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Friedrich Kalkbrenner was the top dog among Parisian pianists until Chopin and Liszt came along. He overestimated his own importance in relation to Chopin and Mendelssohn, and as a result he has suffered from a case of bad press in the history books. But Chopin, it should be remembered, continued to admire him, and Shelley makes a good case for his revival here. The chief attraction of the Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 85 (1826), and Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 107 (1829), is that they effectively integrate deep virtuosity into a passable early Beethoven concerto structure. They are not like Chopin's concertos where the orchestra serves mostly to lay down a few chords and turn the piano part loose. Perhaps the more successful is the Piano Concerto No. 3, with its ambitious opening movement that sets up the piano exposition with a nifty solo cello melody; distinctly less so is the Adagio and Allegro di bravura, Op. 102, the very essence of empty display. One feels that Shelley, with his seemingly effortless facility, is just the right pianist for this music, which will certainly interest anyone wondering what kind of music Chopin heard when he arrived in Paris.

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