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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No 2 is the one!, 14 Aug 2009
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This review is from: The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 45 Hiller (Audio CD)
Ferdinand Hiller, a pupil of Hummel, was a prolific 19th century German composer and pianist who was highly respected in his time. As you might expect, these three concertos are not stylistically original, the obvious influences being Mendelssohn and Chopin, but the second and third concertos are superior to many of their type and are well worth getting to know.
The First Concerto(1829-31) is the least interesting. Its first movement has a striking main theme but the subsidiary material is less memorable and there is a fair amount of entertaining but rather empty virtuosity. The slow movement opens like a watered-down version of the slow movement from Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto and then contrasts lyrical and agitated material. The finale is the best movement. It's a rondo with an attractive and lyrical subsidiary tune.
The Second Concerto(1843) is the pick of these works. Far more tightly constructed and melodically memorable than the others, this compact piece eschews virtuosity for its own sake and, from its "sturm und drang" style opening until its tuneful finale it will keep you listening. This is a concerto which deserves a place in the concert repertoire.
The Third Concerto(1874) which, for many years, was thought lost is also worth getting to know. Known as the "Concerto Espressivo" it has a melodious and well-integrated sonata form opening movement with a particularly attractive second subject. The slow movement's minor key main theme seems rather plain at first but this is deceptive because throughout the movement Hiller continually varies it, allowing his imagination to lead the music where it will. The tune is finally heard in the major. The concerto ends with an exuberant finale.
These are splendid performances. Shelley rarely has to worry about competition because the repertoire he records is so rare but, even if this were not so, I cannot imagine these performances being bettered.
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