WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 6 (Fantastique); Piano Concerto No. 7 (Pathétique)
PERFORMER: Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67385
Marginal figures in the history of music are not always justly marginalised. This issue pleasingly proves the point. No. 32 in the Hyperion ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series, it’s the second Moscheles contribution thereto by Howard Shelley, and a thoroughly enjoyable disc (the first was reviewed last August).
Moscheles (1794-1870) – piano virtuoso, Mendelssohn’s teacher and friend, prominent in London music for two mid-life decades – is on this evidence alone a fine example of the creative type the French call the petit maître. His limits are clear. In spite of the Fantastique and Pathétique appellations of the later two concertos, nowhere are great passions depicted. The idiom, bridging the divide between Classical and early Romantic, shows the particular influence of Mozart on the one hand (obvious in No. 1, a youthful work), and Weber and Mendelssohn on the other: it’s urbane, restrained (notwithstanding the showy finales to each work) and conservative.
But the charming, occasionally racy tunes, command of poignancy (No. 6 has a notably lovely Andante espressivo), freedom from sentimentality and fluent formal control add up to mastery. Shelley’s suavely moulded playing – gentle, good-humoured and glittering where need be – and that of the Tasmanian orchestra does more than justice to the concertos: it promotes them. The perfectly acceptable recordings lack space; Hyperion’s booklet material is as apposite as ever. Max Loppert