With this 38th volume in the 'Romantic Piano Concerto' series, Hyperion has now recorded all of Scharwenka's four and initiated Anton Rubinstein's quest with his fourth in the genre. Franz Xaver Scharwenka was born in 1850 in Southern Prussia (now Poland) while Rubinstein was born in Western Russia in 1829.
Written ten years apart, these two concertos were hugely popular in their day and both composers were extremely successful and glamorous piano virtuosos. Despite their reputation though, only a handful of their huge oeuvre survived past the first half of the 20th century when modernism stepped in and took over much of the intellectual taste of European audiences. Today, both are remembered for a respective miniature, although their stocks are steadily on the rise.
The two works on this disc are full of dazzling passages, exciting, technically challenging and at times, overtly dramatic. The main feature of Scharwenka's piece, completed in 1874 is that the Adagio is incorporated in the fiery first movement. Rubinstein's Fourth is dominated by a massive cadenza in the first movement, while the soothing Andante contains some of the composer's most tender and affecting writing.
Jeremy Nicholas' essay is most enlightening, and is one of the album's major assets. Marc André Hamelin's long association with Hyperion is bearing a very rich harvest indeed, and his exhilarating and adrenalin fuelled performances are a testimony not only to his musicianship, but also of their devoted and mutual collaboration.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech