Herz: Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5

COMPOSERS: Herz
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Herz
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67537
In 1830 Mendelssohn wrote from Munich to a friend about ladies ‘who were sunk in Herz and Kalkbrenner’ but who, thanks to his efforts, now swooned over Beethoven and Weber instead. ‘But,’ he went on, ‘I really think that I will not have been long gone before they are back to Herz.’

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We will, I hope, not begrudge Mendelssohn the high moral road, but even so the low road taken by Herz leads on to considerable pleasures, purveyed on this disc with exemplary panache. Nor are the pleasures as low as Mendelssohn might have us believe. The tunes are rather good, the facture highly professional (that is, one idea leads to another in the most natural way) and the orchestration, if not generally idiosyncratic, perfectly suited to the material. Further, there are moments (the orchestral exposition of the first movement of the D minor Concerto is one) where Herz seems to be aiming for the high road and is diverted only by the necessity of incorporating the piano and its semiquavers.

Howard Shelley is well up to the considerable technical challenges and, apart from phrasing intelligently himself, persuades the orchestra to follow suit. In all, a disc that looks on the bright side of life.

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Roger Nichols