Herz: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 7; Piano Concerto No. 8

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 7; Piano Concerto No. 8
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano)
It may be true that the music of Henri Herz (1803-88) predeceased him, but the three piano concertos recorded here ooze with enough virtuosic flair and charm to captivate modern listeners. You’ll hear those bel canto-like runs, figurations and embellishments that Chopin later made famous (the First Concerto’s Bellinian theme, for example), fiery cascading triplets, ricocheting leaps and, of course, the repeated notes that were Herz’s speciality. None of Herz’s technical thickets (and there are plenty of them) fazes Howard Shelley, though: he can bend the lines to milk a felicitous modulation or give full operatic scope to busy, high-register filigree (the second subject of the Seventh Concerto’s first movement). The Tasmanian Symphony strings sound underfed and understaffed compared to the other sections, and one could imagine more assertive, incisive chording in the Seventh’s slow movement or the Eighth’s opening tutti. Otherwise, the ensemble follows Shelley’s conducting from the keyboard in harmonious and flexible accord. If you’ve enjoyed previous volumes in Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series, you’ll certainly warm to this delightful release. Jed Distler