Howard Shelley / Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61: Döler, Dreyschock

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With this release, Hyperion's series of forgotten Romantic piano concertos reaches its 61st volume. Heinrich Heine reported of one of the composers here, Theodor Döhler, that "some say he is among the last of the second-class pianists, others that he is the first among third-class pianists," and you might be forgiven for wondering whether the series was reaching the bottom of the barrel. Certainly Döhler, a German-born Italian, is almost unknown today, and the other composer, Alexander Dreyschock, is remembered primarily for an episode in which he played the left hand of Chopin's "Revolutionary" étude in octaves. Still, the point of the series is completeness, and those specializing in the period will find points of interest here. The sheer difficulty of the piano writing is chief among them, especially in the Döhler Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7; one sees that what Liszt contributed to the piano literature during this period (the Döhler work was written in 1835, the two by Dreyschock about a decade later) was not purely technical display but the harnessing of it to charisma. Döhler's opening movement sets up some not very interesting thematic material and then unleashes a barrage of passagework in parallel that taxes the skills even of Shelley, a Rachmaninov specialist. He doesn't let you seem him sweat, though, and pianists may pick up some moves here; at least those who have studied the works of Czerny will have something new to think about. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, as usual in this series, provides spirited support; Shelley serves as both pianist and conductor.

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