Henze: Piano Concerto No. 2; Telemanniana

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COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Telemanniana
PERFORMER: Rolf Plagge (piano); NW German PO/Gerhard Markson
CATALOGUE NO: 999 322-2
Henze’s Second Piano Concerto is a massive work, a huge arching span of music nearly 50 minutes long, conceived very much within the bravura tradition. First performed in 1968, it was Henze’s last major work before his conversion to revolutionary Marxism –the premiere of The Raft of the Medusa a few months later would bring the wrath of the establishment on his head, and begin a period in which his music was dominated by wall-poster gestures and agit-prop texts – yet there is no trace of that change of direction here. The Concerto has been recorded before – a performance conducted by the composer with Christoph Eschenbach as soloist is included in the Henze 70th-birthday collection reissued by Deutsche Grammophon, and that has a bit more intensity and purpose than this one, though Rolf Plagge certainly has all the notes of the demanding solo part under his fingers.

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This intricately structured, highly organised music is worlds away from Telemanniana, the lush, full-orchestra expansion of a quartet for flute, violin, bass viol and continuo, composed in the same year as the Piano Concerto, which does for Telemann in a more Technicolor way what Tippett did for Corelli in his Fantasia concertante, though Henze never strays as far from the original. It’s hardly ever heard now, and makes a valuable fill-up here. Andrew Clements