ALBUM TITLE: Hiller
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1-3
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67655
From recognised 19th-century master, Ferdinand Hiller (1811-85) has now descended in reputation to the point where his currently recorded works can be counted on the fingers of one hand. With the advent of this disc you need two. All right, he wasn’t a Mendelssohn or a Schumann, though he unfortunately shares the latter’s propensity to muddy orchestration at climaxes. But this must still rate as one of the more successful of Hyperion’s prodigal disinterments of Romantic Piano Concertos. We have learnt from Howard Shelley’s previous contributions to the series to expect brilliant and stylish playing, and he does not disappoint here. He also gives full value to the lyrical elements which, in the First Concerto anyway, come as a welcome relief from Hiller’s 20-year-old enthusiasm for speed and sparkle. In the Third Concerto, subtitled Concerto espressivo, Hiller gives the orchestra a slightly more prominent role and at times I felt the woodwind to be a shade distant. But the Second Concerto is a convincing and characterful piece, with the best tunes. Also (which may be relevant) it’s the shortest of the three.