WORKS: Piano Concertos
PERFORMER: Martin Helmchen (piano); Strasbourg PO/Marc Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 333
It would be difficult to find two more contrasting Romantic piano concertos. Composed for his wife, Clara, Schumann’s Concerto benefits from his consummate understanding of piano virtuosity.
When Dvorák completed his Piano Concerto in 1876, he did not even own a piano. His approach to the virtuoso demands of the concerto was hardly conventional and a feeling among players that the solo part is ineffective has unfortunately led to its being marginalised within the repertoire.
Martin Helmchen is clearly a staunch advocate for Dvorák’s neglected Concerto. While he stays close to Dvorák’s original piano part, he occasionally leans on the version provided by Vilém Kurz, thus producing something of a hybrid.
There are many things to enjoy in this beautifully recorded interpretation, but the orchestra is not nearly as assured in the Dvorák as the Schumann and as a whole the performance is a long way from Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s superb reading.
On the other hand, both Helmchen and Albrecht give a magnificently assured performance of the Schumann concerto. Jan Smaczny