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If the name Friedrich Kalkbrenner is familiar at all, its probably for his famous suggestion that Chopin would benefit from three years of study with him (a bold offer the Pole wisely turned down). But, as Hyperions ever-expanding Romantic Piano Concerto series has repeatedly shown, received historical opinion and musical quality dont always go hand in hand. With Volume 56 we reach the second and final instalment of Kalkbrenners concertos, dazzlingly played by Howard Shelley, directing the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the keyboard. For all that Kalkbrenner wasnt afraid to write big, bold orchestral introductions, its when the pianist makes his entry that you realize what a jawdropping player he must have been, with writing of such glittering, glistening panache that it must have had those polite salon ladies reaching for their smelling salts.
Shelley reminds us of why he is suited to this repertoire:the sparkling passagework is impeccably and suavely delivered...Kalkbrenner remains an interesting figure, and these works deserve attention. --International Piano,Mar/Apr 2012
The performances are undoubtedly of the highest calibre...and the recording captures every detail and refinement of Shelley's stunning performances. Kalkbrenner is lucky to have such distinguished exponents. --IRR, Mar'12
Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849) was a Franco-German composer-pianist whose reputation was eclipsed in his lifetime by Chopin and Liszt, among others. Though his music is variable in inspiration, Chopin liked him, so we can't quite ignore him. The best piece here is the Third Piano Concerto (1829), which delivers several structural surprises: there's no slow movement, though Kalkbrenner slots a self-contained nocturne into the opening allegro. The Second Concerto (1826) is grander and more conservative, while the Adagio and Allegro di Bravura (1830) was a model for Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise four years later. Howard Shelley attacks it all with gleeful extravagance. He is also directing the Tasmanian Symphony from the piano as he plays music of often atrocious difficulty, which is something of a tour de force in itself. It's great fun. *** --Guardian, 08/03/12
Shelley is a formidable presence both as soloist and conductor --Gramophone,May'12