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The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 77

Emmanuel Despax; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Eugene Tzigane (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 77
Bronsart: Piano Concerto in F sharp minor; Urspruch: Piano Concerto in E flat
Emmanuel Despax (piano); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Eugene Tzigane
Hyperion CDA68229   75:25 mins

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Hyperion’s long-standing Romantic Piano Concerto series never fails to intrigue. Its 77th instalment presents a pair of virtually unknown works that have somehow slipped through the cracks. The catchily named Hans August Alexander Bronsart von Schellendorf’s main claim to fame is as the soloist who premiered Liszt’s revised Second Piano Concerto. Indeed, there is a whiff of Lisztian virtuosity to Bronsart’s Piano Concerto, a work once popular among his contemporaries. Soloist Emmanuel Despax convinces that a resurrection is in order: the rousing – and just a little gaudy – first movement is countered by a gorgeous Adagio; Despax is dolce throughout. The energetic Tarantella finale sees pianist and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra share frothy melodies.

Anton Urspruch’s Piano Concerto begins with an extended pastoral-like first movement; it is much less showy than the Bronsart concerto, and the contrast is effective. Despax has fewer opportunities for pianistic fireworks; in fact, the piano does not feel like a soloist until the build-up to the cadenza. After a forgettable Andante, the Concerto is saved by a galloping closing movement: again, the melodic lines are divvied up between orchestra and piano until, eventually, the solo part strikes out on its own, before re-joining the ensemble again for the blistering accelerando finish.

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Claire Jackson