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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Andante and Allegro, Op. 88
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
Ignaz Brüll, Brahms’s friend and duet-partner and a celebrated but unflashy piano virtuoso, was also a prolific if conservative composer. His reputation didn’t long survive his death in 1907. (The only one of his 11 operas to last longer, Das goldene Kreuz, vanished from the repertoire of German opera houses with the advent of the Nazis, for Brüll was Jewish.) His First Concerto, astonishingly assured for a 14-year-old, moves amiably within a Mendelssohn-Schumann orbit: the piano writing is fluent, the large-scale structure confidently handled, the material quite fresh, especially in the sprightly finale. Seven years later, Concerto No. 2 is a much stronger work, with affinities to Beethoven’s G major Concerto, and a predominantly Schumannesque language occasionally touched by Brahms. There’s some structural originality in the accompanied cadenza that links into the finale – a march-like rondo obviously inspired by Beethoven’s, but with a whiff of Meyerbeer in its main tune and considerable oomph all round. The much later Andante and Allegro is more advanced and integrated in style, though desperately passé for 1902: in itself it’s an attractive, accomplished, thoroughly civilised piece. Roscoe and Brabbins turn in positively affectionate readings. If not masterpieces, all these works deserve occasional hearings, rather more than some better-known second-rank Romantic concertos. Calum MacDonald