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COMPOSERS: Kalkbrenner
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Kalkbrenner
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 4
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano)
Question: why did Kalkbrenner play so many black notes? Answer: because he could. And that’s about it really. Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra deserve their stars for bravery under fire, if nothing else, though Shelley also does his best to uncover lyricism in the occasional quarters where it may be found.


Kalkbrenner was the one who assured Fanny Mendelssohn he’d just played an improvisation, but the next morning the Mendelssohns found it ‘published note for note under the title of “Effusio musica”’. I wouldn’t know about the ‘musica’ but there’s plenty of ‘effusio’ here, and very wearing it is. I wondered, as I listened with clenched ears, what the effect would have been of slapping a speed restriction on Kalkbrenner’s right hand: maybe the lack of substance would have been so glaring he might have given up composing altogether. I suppose we have no right to expect the 41st volume of The Romantic Piano Concerto necessarily to produce marvels. But the thought of Shelley and Phillip Littlemore actually spending time ‘reconstructing’ the Fourth Concerto (though in what way we are not told) is pretty sobering, let alone the hours Shelley must have spent on the black stuff. Roger Nichols