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4.0 out of 5 stars
4
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 18 Korngold & Marx
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 13 May 2017
Not one of the great collections of Piano Concertoes, but Korngold and Marx are not a bad pairing and worth listening to.
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on 24 May 2002
This CD was bought just on an impulse and I was extremely well rewarded for my risk-taking. Marc- Andre Hamelin is, as usual, brilliant. The passionate and lyrical performances he gives here are as good as, if not better than, any I've heard. The music in the Marx concerto is so beautiful it made me conduct the orchestra in my imagination, and that only happens when I hear really sumptuous music. The style is about as Romantic as you can get without it turning into honey. Some of the pianism is quite astounding and this is backed up when you read what the sleeve notes (which are excellent) say about what the performer actually has to play! The Korngold concerto is, as the sleeve notes will tell you, the second ever piano concerto for the left hand ever written and reminded me of Prokofiev in its foreboding, apocalyptic beginning and harmonic content. Unfortunately, although the sound quality is of the highest standard, the piano suffers from not being amplified quite enough in the Korngold concerto. Also, Hamelin's fingers tapping the ivories is audible, but that's only if you're wearing headphones. Overall, a gem of a CD and, along with the Henselt/Alkan CD by the same performer, makes my CD collection!
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on 21 December 2004
This disc has been on the shelves for several years and achieves steady sales. The pieces are fully worthy of place amongst the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concertos, indeed, the Marx Concerto is the eponymous concerto for the whole series.
Marc-André Hamelin records now exclusively for Hyperion, and has achieved many astounding successes for the label. His Medtner and Godowsky will perhaps never be surpassed in terms of technique and application. Here he tackles two dissimilar works by composers who were friends. They, in their different ways, kept romanticism going in Austria after abandonment by the composers of the Second School, Schönberg and Berg, Webern, and to a lesser extent, Zemlinsky (who never let go of his romantic roots).
The Korngold Concerto is for the left hand only, and was written for Paul Wittgenstein. It is a chimæra of a piece, percussive, kaleidoscopic and punishing for the player. Korngold set the piece in "C sharp" without saying whether he intended that to be major or minor, and this ambiguity pervades the piece as a whole. Tough but with substance, yet heroic and touching too.
Marx was the older man, and wrote his Romantisches Klavierkonzert in the second main phase of his work as a composer, after he had turned from song writing to orchestral works in the 1920s. If ever there was a piano conerto worthy of the title "Romantic" this is it. There is no better recommendation to the listener than to turn on the system, put on the disc and prepare to be swept away into a sound world of sophisticated and endearing late romantic fervour. The piano part is as hard for the two hands as the Korngold was for one, but this time there will be no difficulty in recognizing this work as one of the great piano concertos of the 20th Century.
The sound and the orchestral playing are very good, and the recommendation is unqualified.
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on 4 September 2005
First a big 'well done' to the British label Hyperion for the fact that there was such good knowledge of the repertoire that two virtuoso piano concertos by two great Austrian late-romantics could be recorded on one CD (in the now legendary Hyperion series 'The Romantic Piano Concerto').
But why only a three stars out of five rating? Not because of the fantastic Korngold recording, of which I have absolutely no criticism. No, it is because of keyboard-robot Marc-André Hamelin's completely uninspired performance of the 'Romantic Piano Concerto' by Joseph Marx. Anyone who knows the legendary radio recordings of this work with the great pianist Jorge Bolet and of course the new recording which appeared in July 2005 with David Lively (and the Bochum Symphony under Steven Sloane on ASV) will understand why this pounding recording of this piano concerto (which is from first to last second wonderfully beautiful) just has no heart at all. In Hamelin's recording every nuance which Marx built into the refined piano part goes for nothing. This is accentuated by the somewhat dull sound (as if the treble control had been turned down). The piano cannot at any point develop that noble presence which gives such enjoyment in the above-mentioned recordings with Bolet or Lively. Also, the orchestral sound seems to me to have been manipulated in the studio - unfortunately with negative results. In the final analysis this wonderful piano concerto by Joseph Marx premiered by Walter Gieseking is simply ruined. It is fortunate, then, that the piece has also recently appeared on ASV in an extremely refreshing recording (with the pianist David Lively).
This may be the reason why most critics gave preference to the Korngold concerto when the Hyperion CD came out, thus treating the poor performance of the Marx as a 'nice bonus track'.
Unfortunately, the booklet is not much better. Even taking no account of the clumsy German translation, the well-informed classical music listener will find a number of serious blunders in the booklet, such as, for example, that Marx was 'not a brilliant orchestrator because he in general tended to allow the strings simply to accompany the piano'. This is what the booklet author Brendan Carroll - admittedly the leading Korngold biographer of our time - wrote at a time when, apart from this Hamelin premiere recording of the 'Romantic Piano Concerto', there were no other orchestral recordings in existence! Anyone who knows the series 'The Orchestral Works of Joseph Marx', which has been appearing since 2002, knows only too well that the good Mr Carroll is just talking nonsense, albeit unwittingly; think, for example, of the large-scale symphonic poems by Joseph Marx ('Natur-Trilogie') or of the Orchestral Songs or the Second Piano Concerto 'Castelli Romani'. And so we read in the booklet to the ASV release 'The Piano Concertos of Joseph Marx') WHY Joseph Marx consciously kept the orchestration of the 'Romantic Piano Concerto' in the romantic style of the 19th century - something which was obviously beyond the knowledge of Korngold expert Brendan Carroll and sadly remains beyond him to this day.
However, anyone who has never heard any other recordings of the 'Romantic Piano Concerto' and doesn't expect too much from the sound of the Hamelin's mercilessly pounded piano will certainly derive enjoyment even from this recording because the great melodic richness of the piece at least comes over to some extent.
Finally it must also be said that the two works put together on this CD are stylistically very different, at least in some parts. I would describe the Korngold work as only partly 'late-romantic'; apart from a few thrillingly beautiful minutes, the harmonies must be described as fairly modern - which in no way spoils the pleasure it gives the listener.
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