The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 20 Brüll CD
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Ignaz Brüll : Concerto pour piano & orch. n°1, Op.10 - Concerto pour piano & orch. n°2, Op.24 - Andante et Allegro pour piano & orch., Op.88 / Martin Roscoe, piano - BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, dir. Martyn Brabbins
GRAMOPHONE CRITICS' CHOICE 'The most enjoyable and successful pair of revivals since Stephen Hough's award-winning resurrection of Sauer's No 1 and Scharwenka's 4th. Life-enhancing minor masterpieces in superb sound and dashing, committed performances' --Classic CD
'All of the music on this disc is absolutely delightful' --Fanfare
'This is a welcome discovery or recovery for lovers of Romantic music' --Contemporary Review
Top Customer Reviews
The performances and sound are superb.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The two piano concertos are early pieces--the first written when he was but 15! They are tuneful well-wrought pieces which don't attempt to scale the heights but present the pianist in a flattering light. Check out the strangely-flavoured slow movement of the first concerto.
The later Andante and Allegro is a fascinating piece. It opens with an utterly beautiful slow movement followed by a puckish and unpredictable dance-like piece. I'm not sure the two pieces together make a convincing whole but it's hard not to like either.
Like many of the other discs in this Hyperion series, the performers are sympathetic and appear to be having fun with the music. One flaw, however, is Roscoe's tone in the louder passages. He tends to get hard and brittle which can be painful up close (ie on headphones). A little judicious work with the equalizer might help.
Don't let that stop you, however. All three of the pieces on this recording would make a pleasant change from the usual fare we get on conert programs. As always, Hyperion provides excellent notes with the recording.
Brull was an old hand by the time he crafted his Second Concerto, and this one has more character and should be revived occasionally in the concert hall. (Once in a while, I'd rather hear it than the two-thousandth Tchaikovsky First of the season!) It begins with an arresting martial or perhaps hunting theme that reminds one of early Richard Strauss, who was also a member of the Club. The slow movement is somewhat more heartfelt than the First Concerto's, and the last movement offers as wild and virtuosic a ride as a musical reactionary is likely to provide.
Though written in 1902, when there were certainly few adherents of the Club, the Andante and Allegro still display Brull's long-established credientials. To be fair, the Andante has something of the Brahmsian elegiac about it and is more ripely scored than the earlier, more classically minded pieces. And the Allegro is a folkish affair that Brull's friend Carl Goldmark might have penned. Still, if Schoenberg could call Brahms a musical radical, one would never think of Brull as one.
I have nothing but praise for Martin Roscoe's performance. If he is steely fingered in the virtuoso passages of the Second Concerto and the Allegro, these pieces call for such treatment. And he does just as well by the elegiac, turning in poetic performances of the slow movements. The Scottish orchestra is fine, too, under Brabbins' direction. It sounds smallish, and that is just right: This classical-academic music should sound lean, with no late-Romantic bloat. I'm happy I got to know this music and these performances.
Disbelief at several things; my good fortune at finding such a hidden gem as Ignaz Brull (almost, but not quite, "a flower . . . born to blush unseen/And waste its sweetness on the desert air"); at the orchestral and melodic invention of the works; at Brull's tender age upon composition of the first concerto; at the neglect his works have fallen into.
The last -- Brull's neglect in modern discography and concert programs -- must have a fairly simple explanation: good old-fashioned anti-semitism. Hitler would have his sole opera, Das Goldene Kreuz, banned from the stage. In his own time, however, Brull was Brahm's favorite pianist (Brahms's symphonies all premiered in four-hand versions, with Brull as Brahms's duet-partner).
Brull (1846-1907) died shortly before the rise of serious anti-semitic fascism in Germany. Sadly, too, Germany at this time (the latter 19th and early 20th century) was the chief purveyor of serious, symphonic music in the world. Brull's work had not had the chance to be disseminated like other Jewish composers before him (Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Offenbach) and thus survive elsewhere.
The first work on this disc -- no. 20 inHyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series -- Brull's Piano Concerto No. 1, begins most promisingly. Brull, working from simple melodic material, almost immediately integrates the piano solo into the orchestral goings-on. The entire movement, while full of vrituoso display from the keyboard, maintains an almost perfect balance between symphonic development and solo exhibition. The piano part is almost an obbligato part to the symphonic drive and sweep of the orchestra -- in this respect, Brull's only equal is the Mozart of his later, fully-symphonic concerti. Keep in mind that this is the work of a fourteen year old.
Piano Concerto No 1's further two movements maintain the level of orchestral balance and melodic interest (note, in particular, the bristling third-movement theme, almost a piece of passage-work in its conception).
The other two works contained on the program, Brull's second concerto, and his "Andante and Allegro" for piano and orchestra, are of the same high quality and individual stamp. The second concerto shows a slight degree of greater maturity and compositional savoir-faire than does the first (as is to be expected).
This a disc of lost masterpieces, waiting for new audiences to discover them.
These deserve to be heard.
The two concertos are very similar in form. A big theme in the opening movement is treated in a stately manner. A softer, but still stately, second movement follows. The final movement is more up-tempo, more lively but still somewhat constrained. While I consider the third movement of each concerto the best, Brull is always a bit too mannered for my taste. I never really had the sense he was enjoying his own music.
The "Andante and Allegro" is pleasant, but not memorable.
The performances and recorded sound are fine.
I struggled between three and four stars. I went with four for skill, albeit not for heart.