Melani Mestre / Martyn Brabbins / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 65: Albéniz, Granados

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

With this release, Hyperion's series of Romantic piano concertos reaches its 65th album, and even faithful buyers may suspect, given the presence of a nonexistent Piano Concerto in C minor ("Patético") by Enrique Granados, that the bottom of the barrel is near. That work consists of some sketches for one movement for a concerto that was abandoned for unknown reasons. The completion of that movement, by Catalan pianist Melani Mestre, is by no means implied by the existing material, and the other two movements of the traditional three-movement form are simply adapted from other Granados compositions. There's little here to make listeners sit up and take notice. Neither is the Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 78 ("Concierto fantástico"), of Isaac Albéniz an essential work of that composer, but the serious Albéniz fan will find something to chew on in its pairing with the Rapsodia española, Op. 70, here in an orchestration by the composer himself that has generally been considered inferior. (The concerto is presented in a later orchestration by Tomás Bretón.) It's striking that these two works were composed within a few years of each other: the Rapsodia, true to its name, is brimming with Spanish influences, while the A minor concerto could pass for Schumann. What's interesting is that the concerto, although not much heard these days, was hailed as a masterpiece after its premiere, both in Spain and in France. It's the sparkling scherzo, not especially Spanish but rhythmically distinctive, that listeners found intriguing, and Mestre gives an attractive performance that helps put the listener in the frame of mind of those who were hearing the young Albéniz for the first time. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins does its usual solid job in varied material.

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