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The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 44 Melcer [CD]

Christoph König , Henryk Melcer-Szczawínski , BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra , Jonathan Plowright Audio CD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £14.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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  • Audio CD (31 Dec 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B000Z6OLOK
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,001 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Maestoso
2. Andantino
3. Vivo ma non troppo e poi molto accelerando
4. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 35
5. Andante Non Troppo Lento
6. Allegro Con Fuoco

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Colourful Confections. 2 Dec 2010
By someonewhocares2 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Henryk Melcer (1869-1928) was a late Romantic Polish pianist and composer whose two piano concertos are worth hearing though I have to agree with Mr Mills when he says that they are not "neglected masterpieces". The tunes are not really memorable (though the first movement of the First concerto does contain a strong lyrical melody, first heard at 5 mins 18 secs) and Melcer, though he tries hard to relate his ideas to each other, lacks any real sense of structure or organic growth. Sonata form movements do not have the usual double exposition and Melcer doesn't believe in orchestral tuttis to mark structural divisions. First movements in particular tend to fall apart. The recapitulation of the First Concerto's first movement, for example, begins, most unusually, with a fugato built on the first subject. It is not ineffective and leads nicely to a climactic statement of the "big tune" but it does seem rather out of place in its context. "When you can't think of anything else to do, write a fugue", my professor once told me.

The slow movement's opening is related to the concerto's first idea and then comes an extended tune for the piano which is soon repeated in conjunction with the strings. This short movement convinces because it does not overstretch its material. The final pages of this movement prefigure the main theme of the finale. The tunes in this movement have a Polish flavour but are not as strong as you would like and sometimes the music is reminiscent of the salon, notably in the episode beginning at 4 mins 32 secs. Melcer's problems with structure are again evident; the music is inclined to stop and start. I'm not sure what the booklet note writer means when he says that there is an "accelerando" throughout the movement. I didn't notice it.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting rarities with appeal 8 Jan 2008
Format:Audio CD
These two concertos are splendidly performed and the overall production is well up to Hyperion's usual high standards with a very informative booklet. Regrettably, though, they are really not neglected masterpieces - but certainly (fairly) interesting rarities.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Virtuoso Concertos 6 May 2010
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Henryk Melcer was born in Poland in 1869. He began his musical studies at home, taught by a maternal grandmother and his father, eventually winning a gold medal as a student. Interestingly, he studied both music and mathematics at Warsaw University and in Vienna. Melcer was a fantastic performer and his abilities were admired by Busoni and Scriabin among others.

The Piano Concerto No. 1 was composed during 1892 - 94 while the composer was a student. The concerto was submitted to the Second Anton Rubinstein Competition in a pared down form where it won the Composition Prize. The concerto was performed in its complete form in 1896. The concerto was popular in Germany and Poland but not well received in Britain; Michael Ponti recorded it in 1980.

The concerto opens with a brief brass fanfare. The soloist enters alone with a heroic melody that is taken up by the orchestra, and then elaborated by soloist and orchestra together. The movement has a peaceful interlude until the soloist introduces a dramatic melody that builds slowly to a climax. The music builds to another climax, then settles into a quiet, reflective mood and the music fades away. The middle movement is a short Andantino, characterized by a romantic melody elaborated by soloist and orchestra. The second movement leads directly into the third, which opens with the same gentle music. A bucolic melody slowly builds from the orchestra and is joined by the soloist. Eventually, the orchestra and soloist open up with a joyous melody that is elaborated, with some brilliant passagework by the soloist.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1898 for the Jan Paderewski Competition where it won first prize. The concerto has been performed on a regular basis in Poland, and was recorded commercially in 1980. The soloist begins with a somber melody that builds in volume slowly until the soloist and orchestra reach an explosive climax. The somber mood continues until the soloist introduces a gentle, bucolic melody. The movement ends quietly, and the Andante picks up with the same somber mood introducing a romantic theme. The music slowly builds in intensity and returns to the opening. The music builds again to a fanfare for the brass with the piano answering each call. The Finale takes off with a dazzling melody the whirls along between soloist and orchestra. A second melody, grandly introduced by the brass is picked up by the soloist followed by interplay between orchestra and pianist elaborating the melodies. The concerto ends with a brilliant run.

Both concertos are demanding on the soloist and Jonathan Plowright is certainly equal to the task, providing a sensitive reading. The music of both concerti is expressive and tuneful and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Konig performs beautifully. This is certainly one of the more outstanding discs in the Romantic Piano Concerto series.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction for most Music Lovers 2 May 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Henryk Melcer-Szczawi'ski (1869 -1928) was a Polish composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher. Not often performed here in the United States the entry to Melcer's works is often through the publicity that accompanies an artist who champions his music in Europe. That is the case for this listener who bought this recording based on the impression LA Phil guest conductor Christoph König created as a conductor of taste and musicality.

The summary of the works as listed in the recoding is as follows: 'Henryk Melcer an esteemed pianist who studied in Vienna with the renowned Theodor Leschetizky before himself becoming one of the most influential piano teachers of his generation in his native Poland. Both of the works presented here were prize-winners in their day. The second and third movements of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor (1892-4) formed part of Melcer's successful portfolio for the prestigious Second International Anton Rubinstein Competition in 1895. It is easy to see why the panel of jurors looked favourably upon Melcer's Concertstück. The wistful Andantino, full of luscious (if somewhat predictable) harmonic progressions, serves as a wonderfully atmospheric introduction to the restless Vivo ma non troppo e poi molto accelerando. Influenced by the dance tradition of the composer's homeland, the work presents some delightful orchestration alongside a riveting solo part that ranges from the delicate to the demonic. The Maestoso first movement, withheld from the Rubinstein Competition in order to meet requirements, is equally accomplished, with soaring melodies and a captivating (if slightly contrived) fugato shortly before its climax.

Melcer's second Piano Concerto in C minor (1898), jointly awarded the concerto prize in the Paderewski Competition of the same year, is somewhat more adventurous, both in form and content. This is particularly true of the opening Allegro moderato, a reflective and inward-looking work whose music seems to exist for large periods in the shadows of a looming sinister presence. The movement is not all doom and gloom, however, as it occasionally threatens to break free of its burdensome restraints, not least during the angst-ridden piano cadenza. Though the ensuing Andante non troppo lento has shed some of the predictability of its counterpart in the E minor Concerto, its decidedly agreeable lyricism nevertheless fails to strike one as extraordinary. This is partially due to the infectiousness of the Allegro con fuoco finale, the swirling principal theme of which is as beguiling as any I have heard in this series. It acts as an ideal foil for the sword that is the heroic, chorale-like second subject. Unfortunately, Melcer succumbs to a moment of compositional weakness in the coda, with a rather unconvincing switch to triple metre (though the performers and sound engineers are partially to blame for this perceived Achilles' heel, as both parties seem to momentarily lose their way, making it harder for the listener to adjust). Jonathan Plowright provides a masterclass in dexterity at the keyboard, rising to meet all of the composer's challenges with a combination of scintillating virtuosity and deft sensitivity. The end of the C minor Concerto's opening movement is particularly telling, as he delivers the brilliant cadenza with utter authority before gently whisking the music away with a flourish of almost impossibly quick semiquavers. Plowright is adroitly partnered by Christoph König and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, who more than do justice to Melcer's imaginative orchestrations whilst also relishing the frequent interplay between soloist and ensemble.'

These works may not be the greatest in piano literature but for a diversion form the routine performances of the usual works they provide some insights into the minds of the Romantic composers. The performances here are strong and worthy, and this is a fine introduction to a composer who is likely an unknown to most. Grady Harp, May 12
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jim Galbraith thinks the Melcer's are okay 23 Feb 2008
By James W. Galbraith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
A good addition in this particular series. Not as beautiful or energetic as the Alnaes concerto released earlier, but still very entertaining. Very good pianism from Plowright. A must buy in this series.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking romp 19 April 2012
By sergei kochkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
You are exhausted after listening to these rare piano concertos. These are some of the most demanding piano concertos possible perhaps even more so than Rachmaninoff 3.....I mean it is non-stop piano with orchestral accompaniment. No memorable themes that stick with you but definitely worth adding to your classical library.
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