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on 6 November 2013
I must confess that I purchased this CD out of curiosity. I've given it five stars because it is a most enjoyable disc and surprisingly original. Up until last week I'd never heard of a pedal piano. Robert Prosseda plays with great enthusiasm and Howard Shelley conducts the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana with similar gusto. The Suite Concertante and the Concerto have some beautiful melodies. The Fantasy and the Danse Roumaine call for much pianistic dexterity. The listener realizes that there is a subtle different between the sound made by an ordinary piano and that of a pedal piano. All round this is a superb addition to Hyperion's "the Romantic Piano Concerto." Not only is it pleasurable to hear, but it's also fun.
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on 12 November 2013
Gounod isn't a composer one primarily associates with orchestral or instrumental music, the two early symphonies aside, but this enterprising and enjoyable release from Hyperion proves to be a real winner. The music itself, written to showcase the pedal piano - a curious hybrid beast with a separate keyboard played by the feet, which Schumann apparently (and erroneously) believed would replace the regular piano - and inspired by a particular practitioner of the instrument hails from relatively late in Gounod's career and is more obviously of the Romantic period than the two symphonies idiomatically; that said, though, there are echoes of the Classical period throughout both the suite and the concerto - the structural concision of both these works, for example, or the "hunting music" of the suite's second movement (a common trope in the High and Late Classical era). There are even a few nods in Beethoven's direction in the rhetorical gestures of the concerto's opening `Allegro moderato', which the liner notes describe as being in the "heroic style", but to approach these works expecting the pyrotechnics of a Liszt concerto or the large-scale symphonic canvases of Brahms or Tchaikovsky is surely to set oneself up for disappointment: the primary aim of this music seems to be to charm and delight the listener, the keyboard writing elegant and effervescent by turns obviously designed to emphasise the slightly drier, more clipped sound of the unusual solo instrument.

And charm all of this music amply does to my ears. It would be a hard heart indeed that didn't respond to the flowing rhythmic and melodic momentum of `Entrée de fete', the movement that opens the disc (and the suite) or the vivacious tarantella that concludes this tuneful work. One might say the same of the scherzo and delectably witty finale of the four-movement concerto, a march designated "Pomposo" in the score but with delicately applied percussion that is actually a world away from pomp and ceremony as one would commonly expect it. None of this music plumbs any great depths nor does it essay profundity but nonetheless the `Romance' in the suite and the `Adagio non troppo' of the concerto are both warmly lyrical and the latter in particular, with its suggestions of a funeral march, carries an emotional burden that sets it aside from anything else to be heard in this collection - the piano writing here is less effusive, rather starker and more imaginative in its effects. The two remaining pieces are more occasional in nature - the fantasy on the Russian national anthem makes surprisingly inventive use of what is a frankly rather banal tune (as perhaps most such anthems are when shorn of their nationalist or patriotic connotations) and the Danse Roumaine is a mere bagatelle, its occasional mildly folk-like turns of phrase not really sounding very authentic.

If this disc admittedly doesn't contain any hitherto undiscovered masterpieces, Hyperion have certainly provided it with the sort of production values and performances that more substantial musical fare would merit: Roberto Prosseda turns in sterling performances, his work at the dual keyboards sounding effortless despite the demands this complicated instrument must make on the artist, and he dispatches Gounod's piano writing with panache and sympathy; the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana under Howard Shelley's sure direction provide accompaniment of no less sympathy and neither soloist nor conductor try to push Gounod's slender but lovely music into being anything more than it was intended to be. The liner notes are exemplary, with detailed discussion of the music and its genesis, plus a short but informative piece on the pedal piano itself. The sound quality is impeccable.

This sixty-second release in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series seems to have received some less-than-warm welcomes in the musical press but I have found it utterly delightful - I'm sure there are more ingenious and original concertos out there waiting to be recorded but there still remains a place for music that aims simply to please and charm without any pretension to "Greatness" (with an upper case G!). I would probably be inclined to award this disc four stars for the contents (and rather short playing time - 55'56") but Roberto Prosseda's performance and the excellent sound quality have persuaded me to bump that score up to five stars.

Warmly recommended.
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on 27 November 2013
Until this disc appeared it is doubtful whether anyone had heard of the pedal piano. Roberto Prosseda plays it superbly, well accompanied by Howard Shelley as the orchestras' conductor. These are rarely played works by a great composer. Well done Hyperion for producing this disc.
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on 14 January 2014
Not surprisingly there are few of these recordings, the so called pedal piano being a Steinway with legs hacked off ,and lying at the feet of pianist so he/she can play a Steinway and the other underneath as an organ pedal-boared. This recording is fine,though one is waiting for the pianist to succumb,he does not here.The music is melodious indeed
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on 14 November 2013
This is one of the most enjoyable discs I have heard this year. All of the music on the disc was written by Gounod for the pédalier, a keyboard with an extra doubling bass played on a pedal board, to be performed by Lucie Palicot, one of those gifted nineteenth century French women pianists who are now forgotten.

The two main works, the Suite Concertante and the Concerto, are gems. I must have listened to the first movement of the Suite at least thirty times in the last few days, captivated by its grace and polish. The Concerto, especially the last two movements, speak the same harmonic language as Saint-Saens and Moskowski (in one of his less bubbly moods), and leave one smiling in delight--and tapping the replay button. Howard Shelley's spacious conducting lets lots of the orchestra's players share in the fun--the various instrumental lines all stand out nicely, allowing us to admire and enjoy them.

Roberto Prosseda's playing is lovely and his liner note ("A note on the pedal piano") about how he was introduced to the Concerto score by the musicologist Gérard Condé (who writes the main liner notes as well as being the author of an excellent biography of Gounod) is fascinating: Prosseda liked the score so much that he bought a pédalier to teach himself the pedal technique for the work which, he says, is quite different--more subtle--than that required for organ.

The other works are fun as well, but perhaps do not have the length or emotional exposition of the Concerto or Suite--they are more in the way of encore pieces.

There is a body of music available for pedalier (perhaps the most famous pieces are Schumann's studies for the instrument which Debussy arranged for two pianos) that are occasionally performed on the organ, and more is being recorded. But this disc is, as I say in the title, simply fabulous.

There is an amateur recording of Mr. Prosseda performing the Concerto on You-Tube: go look at it and see this extraordinary and monstrous instrument being played (I don't think the recording is anything nearly as good as it is on this disc, but you will get a taste)--then get this disc and see if you agree with me. I think you will!
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on 30 October 2014
music of unexpected charm and vigour
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on 15 August 2014
excellent recording
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on 15 December 2013
The piano playing (or should I say pianos playing) is really astounding at times and I am very grateful to hear these works in their original format. The performance from Prosseda easily makes up for what is essentially music of no real distinction. Tuneful enough but not top drawer from such a usually enterprising composer. Dutiful rather than inspired. A good "once in a while" listen then.
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on 22 August 2014
its a present so it has not been played yet
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