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Nepomuceno • Oswald • Saint-Saëns – Piano Concerto, etc

Clélia Iruzun (piano)/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Jac van Steen (SOMM Recordings)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
SOMMCD276_Oswald

Nepomuceno • Oswald • Saint-Saëns
Oswald: Piano Concerto; Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Egyptian’; Nepomuceno: Suite Antiga
Clélia Iruzun (piano)/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Jac van Steen
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD276   71:56 mins

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Every composition teacher’s wall ought to carry the warning ‘Too many sequences can damage your music’s health’. And, even when few in number, they need thoughtful handling, otherwise boredom and irritation quickly take over the field. I have to say, with regret, that Henrique Oswald’s Piano Concerto has been one of my less enjoyable experiences during lockdown, and I’m forced to wonder who ever thought it worthy of recording. It contains no memorable tunes but an extraordinary wealth of platitudinous passagework, much of which one can see coming a mile off. The pianist does her best with it, but really it’s beyond salvation.

Alberto Nepomuceno’s Suite Antiga for solo piano is more enjoyable in its handling of Baroque figuration, but really there’s nothing here that any reasonably talented student could not have achieved in 24 hours. The notes tell us that Grieg, in whose house it was written, was so impressed that he persuaded his publishers, Peters, to take it on. But then Grieg was a very kind man.

The effect of these two pieces is all the more doom-laden for being separated by Saint-Saëns’s Fifth Piano Concerto, one of his finest works, brimming with ideas and with not a single platitude from first bar to last. At times, I would have liked more vivid phrasing from the pianist and, surprisingly, there’s even one dull orchestral patch in the jazzy finale, but her technique is well up to the work’s considerable challenges.

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Roger Nichols