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Reger/Strauss,Romantic Piano concertos CD

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Product details

  • Conductor: Volkov
  • Composer: Reger/Strauss
  • Audio CD (28 Mar. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B004NWHV58
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,036 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 35
  2. Largo Con Gran Espressione
  3. Allegretto Con Spirito
  4. Burleske in D Minor

Product Description

Product Description

Reger : Concerto pour piano, op.114 - Strauss : Burleske / Marc-André Hamelin, piano - Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin - Ilan Volkov, direction

Review

Fire and beauty:imposing concertos revived by just the right personnel. --Gramophone,May'11

A debt to Brahms is acknowledged in both these pieces, brilliantly played by Marc-André Hamelin, who battles manfully through the emotional thicket of Max Reger's sprawling, dramatic piano concerto, which received such a hammering from the critics in 1910 that Reger took to drink. A century on it certainly seems unwieldy and melodramatic but hardly the horror it was thought to be at the time. Richard Strauss's mercurial Burleske makes a pleasant antidote to Reger's high seriousness, with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in cracking form. --The Observer,10/04/11

The Reger, as one might anticipate, is a heavy-duty work, far outdoing Brahms in its weighty sonorities. Reger described his piano concerto as a pendant to Brahms's First in D minor, and it is easy to detect the points of contact. But detrimentally, Reger seemed to regard density of notes as ends in themselves. There are welcome passages where he lets up and, in the slow movement, where he meditates quietly. In the finale he becomes playful in a solid sort of way, but the effort that must go into executing the piece is scarcely matched by anything that fixes the concerto with any permanence in the memory. Strauss's Burleske, an early work that makes obeisance to Brahms's Second Concerto in B flat, is much more fun, pointing to elements of Strauss's mature style and displaying a bravura of orchestral writing that was soon to become a hallmark of Don Juan . Both works are brilliantly performed by both pianist and orchestra, the Strauss adding a refreshing sorbet after the hefty meal of the Reger. *** Classical CD of the week --Daily Telegraph,01/04/11

Hamelin gives one of the most stylish and elegent account of it I've heard,pointing up the warm lyricism of the waltz-episode and setting the sparkling wit of Strauss in scintilating contrast to the earthy humour of his fellow-Bavarian,Reger. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine,May'11

Next to Hamelin's capricious reading,Byron Janis's classic account seems dogged and even Richter's seems slightly unkempt. Strongly recommended. --IRR,Apr'11

Hamelin gives one of the most stylish and elegent account of it I've heard,pointing up the warm lyricism of the waltz-episode and setting the sparkling wit of Strauss in scintilating contrast to the earthy humour of his fellow-Bavarian,Reger. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine,May'11

Next to Hamelin's capricious reading,Byron Janis's classic account seems dogged and even Richter's seems slightly unkempt. Strongly recommended. --IRR,Apr'11

Volume 53 of Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series contains two post-Romantic works linked by demands for exceptional virtuosity, but poles apart in mood. Reger's Concerto in F Minor (1910) is a gaunt, tragic statement that shoulders the immeasurable weight of tradition in its recollections of Brahms, Liszt, Wagner and, above all, Bach, Reger's great hero. The Burleske (1886), in contrast, is Strauss's first comedy a flippant, parodic piece that peers forward to the postmodern ironies of Till Eulenspiegel and beyond. Hearing them together produces a few surprises. Reger is usually castigated for prolixity, though the Concerto doesn't seem to contain a wasted note, and it's the Burleske that comes over as diffuse and occasionally repetitive. Reger's fierce chromatic counterpoint, ratcheting up the anguish, now strikes us as far more disquieting than Strauss's spiky harmonies, which were deemed ultra-modern in his day. Both performances are formidable. Marc-André Hamelin does powerhouse things with the Reger, and is notably harrowing in the great central largo. The skittish charm with which he plays the Burleske, meanwhile, belies its often atrocious difficulty. Ilan Volkov and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra are first rate. ***** --The Guardian,05/05/11

Next to Hamelin's capricious reading,Byron Janis's classic account seems dogged and even Richter's seems slightly unkempt. Strongly recommended. --IRR,Apr'11

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Format: Audio CD
Reger's Piano Concerto is not an easy listen and it is certainly arguable whether it belongs in a series devoted to the "Romantic Piano Concerto". It is a million miles away from roughly contemporary concertos, also recorded in this series, by, say, Glazunov or Scharwenka and if you're looking for good tunes, effectively laid out for piano and orchestra with lots of exciting and flashy virtuosity from the soloist, then you should look elsewhere. When Reger's concerto was first performed in 1910 by Frieda Kwast-Hodapp, the critics hated it. According to the notes that come with this disc, Paul Becker called it a "kaleidoscope-like jumble of ideas that have no real beginning, no recognizable conclusion, no organic coherence" although, rather contradictorily, he also accused Reger of using "slavishly exact copies of old forms". Reger was enormously disappointed by the concerto's reception and was even driven to drink by it. By the following year he was "seen turning up to concerts blind drunk". His health rapidly deteriorated and he died, aged only 43, in 1916.

What makes the concerto rather difficult to approach is the music's chromaticism and constantly shifting tonality. Although advertised as being in F minor, the opening idea of the first movement outlines a tritone and a similar tonal instability is a feature of much of the music. If you glance at the page from the score reproduced on the front of the booklet, all those accidentals will make it seem as though the music's harmonies are very complex but a closer look confirms that, in fact, many of the chords are triadic although there are plenty of added seventh and diminished seventh chords. It's just that the music is in an almost continuous state of tonal flux and that's why all those accidentals are needed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Reger, the performance of swiftness, eloquence, and style. And in Strauss, pure cleverness and entertainment. 17 April 2011
By David Anthony Hollingsworth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As Max Reger confessed to Georg, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen "My concerto is going to be misunderstood for years. The musical language is too austere and too serious; it is, so to speak, a pendant to Brahms's D minor Piano Concerto [number 1]. The public will need some time to get used to it" (Niger Simeone, 2011: p. 3). Reger's letter was written in February 1912, about fourteen months after Arthur Nikisch gave the premiere performance of the work in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on December 15, 1910, with Frieda Kwast-Hodapp as the soloist. The critics tore it apart, and Reger never recovered from the bitterness from that reception. Even so, the public was pleased with it and pianists likewise saw merits in the work and took it into their repertoire. One of the pianists was Rudolf Serkin, who long admired Reger's music and performed the piece in January 1922 in Vienna under Furtwängler and on November 16, 1945 in Minneapolis under Dmitri Mitropoulos (a highly successful US premiere incidentally). George Szell resisted Serkin's proposal to perform the work, but Eugene Ormandy, always that enterprising maverick of a conductor, joined up with Serkin and recorded the piece with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1959 under CBS, a milestone recording in its day.

I long have a particular fondness for Serkin's recording: the recording that is not the state of the art even on subsequent compact disc re-issues. But the eloquence, the power, the bravura in Serkin's playing always manage to penetrate. His rendition of the slow movement is quite tender and Ormandy and the Philadelphia offer absorbing, piercing support. However, between Serkin's recording (1959) and Marc-Andre Hamelin's (2010), it is fascinating to listen how different the pianists are in this monumental piece. Love Derwinger (BIS), for example, takes the opposite, more reflective, nostalgic view than the rest I had heard (and read of). He is a consummate communicator with the instrument, but not one to dazzle. In truth, I tend to find him closer to the spirit of the concerto and of Reger than any I'd heard so far on record (with moving support by Leif Segerstam and the Norrkoping Symphony). His take on the second movement (Largo con gran espressione) is the most elegantly done with an enthralling sense of longing and vulnerability. Marc-Andre Hamelin, like Barry Douglas (RCA), however, offers the other extreme (and it's interesting to note how similar their styles are in this work: edgy, angst-ridden, but not as probing and emotionally penetrating as Derwinger). Douglas' playing in the first movement has a certain forebodingness to it than all that I've heard so far: exhilarating in presentation yet noticeably more protesting and darker. Here, there is no doubt that after the sharp, imposing, chordal entry at 1:43, would Hamelin's vitality and drama in the playing be the story of the day. He is a shade less thrilling than Douglas, and on the quieter passages does he, like Douglas and Gerhard Oppitz (Koch Schwann), presses forward more so than Derwinger, although to me no more and no less telling than the latter: the approaches that are equally loving and tender on their own terms. The coda of that first movement is urgent, thrilling, and superlative in this recording, although I'll give the edge to Douglas and Janowski with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with their added sense of drama and tension. Hamelin is quite divine in the slow second movement: dreamy, reflective, a sense of wonder, if not quite as pronounced in the sense of lost and yearning as Derwinger. Douglas is more closer to Derwinger in spirit compared to Hamelin. But the exquiteness in the playing by all involved, particularly at the closing bars, is mind capturing: the poetics ever so present. Hamelin's account of the last movement is nicely chic and clever, but never insensitive. The orchestral support by Volkov and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra is stunning here if lacking the compelling grittiness of Janowski's orchestra (with some of the inner details that are more decernable in RCA's more dryer, analytical sound). At the end of the day though, it comes down to personal taste is far as this great work is concerned, for these recordings have their own arresting virtues in their own rights. I will always cling on to the CBS,BIS, and the RCA recordings, given how personal and committed these performances are. That said, this current account is a triumph in every way and in its own way.

For the likes of me, I am hard-pressed to see why Strauss' Burleske (1885-1886) is not a mainstay in the repertoire. It is an ingenious piece, and although it is a whimsical homage to Brahms' Second Concerto in B-flat, it has all the blueprints of the Strauss he was to become. It is as scintillating in terms of contrasts and explicit cleverness as "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" Strauss wrote a decade later. The piano writing is highly effective in its wittiness, humor, and warmth and Hamelin matches those attributes with plenty of character and style. Douglas has a more flamboyant, dazzling take in this masterpiece that is equally enjoyable in its own terms. And this is the sort of work that's something of a field day for the featured orchestras (the Berlin Radio Symphony under Ilan Volkov and Janowski's Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France). Needless to say, they have quite literally knocked themselves out in their respective recordings, particularly their timpanists. It is a fun, entertaining listening, and should do much to convince many others as to its value.

It is really unfortunate that the aforementioned RCA album that had the identical programme of the works featured here is now deleted (it stayed in the market not long after its 1998 release). That said, this disc is excellent in every way. The recording has both venerable clarity and depth, with every detail that is nicely caught (definitely up Hyperion's alley). Nigel Simeone's booklet essay, meanwhile, is commendably deep and scholarly. In other words, it is again Hyperion's high musical presentation that remains unfailingly artful, deep, penetrating, and in the end, innovative and thought-provoking.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you know Marc Hamelin, you know what to expect 17 April 2011
By Old Hickory - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Brilliant playing. According to the liner notes, this piece was thought to have "too many notes," which it does, and was considered too difficult. But if you are a fan of "The Romantic Piano Cto," and especially if you like Reger -- I've only heard his piano music (riffing on Bach) and music for piano & cello until now -- you'll appreciate this. I'm not a musician, but have repeatedly played this CD. I guess I would have been one of the few Reger fans back in his day. Enjoy.
31 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth Hamelin's trouble 27 April 2011
By philvscott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Marc-André Hamelin is one of the greatest pianists alive today. His technique is superhuman, as is his memory for the reams of notes penned by such composers as Alkan and Godowsky. He has recorded many discs for Hyperion, which is fortunate as it gives the potential buyer plenty to choose ahead of this one.
Of all the German late-Romantics, Max Reger is the hardest to love. His textures are thick, his themes unmemorable and his dense counterpoint impenetrable. His best pieces are sets of variations on themes by other composers: Mozart, Hiller and Bach. Left to his own devices, as in this Brahmsian concerto from 1910, his worst habits come to the fore, including haste: he composed and scored the 38-minute monster in a matter of weeks. Contemporary critics were scathing and rightly so. Out of those 38 minutes at least 30 are a complete waste of time, including the entire 3rd movement where the soloist flails about like a wounded animal, trapped in thickets of endless chromatic sequences. The unprepared final D major chord is ridiculous.
I have owned an RCA disc of this coupling for years (rarely played) with the excellent Irish pianist Barry Douglas. I would have thought Hamelin and Volkov would trump him, or at least clarify Reger's textures. Instead they take to the work with a sledgehammer, and Hyperion's opaque sound makes matters worse. Hamelin rushes Strauss's Burleske (a much better and shorter piece), proving no match for the light-fingered Thibaudet on Decca.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good to hear 20 Mar. 2013
By Stanley Crowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Hyperion is performing a public service with their ongoing "Romantic Piano Concerto" series, and the quality of the performers that they get to play unfamiliar music is amazing. Here it's Marc-Andre Hamelin with the Reger concerto. Hamelin plays it confidently and superbly, but it's an odd piece -- amazingly sober in expressiveness for such a big work. The orchestral part, which seems a bit recessively recorded, isn't all that alluring, and the piano writing isn't flashy, even though it obviously calls for a virtuoso's resources. For me, the lovely rise and fall of the slow movement is the highlight -- it comes to an eloquent climax almost exactly half way through, then reverses the arc, so to speak to a quiet conclusion. The whole piece will hold the attention, but it isn't finally all that memorable. The transformation of motifs from Bach chorales into a romantic concerto is ingenious, but not totally gripping. The Strauss "Burleske" has some of the sparkle that Reger lacks, although it doesn't sound very like the mature Strauss. Still, it's a lively ride, and Hamelin plays it with feeling and assurance.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dense, thrilling and ludicrous 28 April 2012
By Sebastien Maury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I come to this piece for the first time through the always persuasive advocacy of Hamelin - and despite some head-turning chromatic shifts in the 3rd movement - WHAT!! - I was thrilled and almost shocked at the richly textured, outrageously played and warmly recorded performance. Bravo Hamelin. Again. I thank the other reviewers for their suggestions and I shall seek out other performance for comparison - although I feel this will be hard to match. The Bolet/Mehta recording sounds like one to find, and I have access to a recording by Eduard Erdmann - anyone know if this is any good?
I'm not a huge fan of Strauss' Burleske, so I won't comment, however I love this disc - and frankly, I think I love the Reger too, difficult though it certainly is!
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