Recording of the Week Romantic Piano Concertos
It is cause for considerable celebration that Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series reaches its fiftieth volume today. Over the last twenty years the series has recorded an astonishing 131 works for piano and orchestra by 63 different composers (59 of which were world premiere recordings) and the series has brought to the public attention a huge number of rare but enjoyable works in performances which it would generally be very hard to better.
As Series Producer Mike Spring acknowledges in the introduction to the new catalogue (which comes free with the new volume), the works themselves are not always masterpieces, but the piano concerto as a form was really in its heyday in the nineteenth century and with the virtuoso element often to the fore, these works can be satisfying and hugely entertaining, despite not always being particularly profound. The other key element to the success of this series is the consistently superb quality of the performances and recordings. Twenty different pianists, fifteen orchestras and twenty-two conductors have so far featured, and a number of Hyperion’s most established artists – including Marc-André Hamelin, Stephen Hough and Steven Osborne - made their first Hyperion discs in this way. Critically the series has been equally successful, achieving two Gramophone Record of the Year Awards and a whole host of other accolades.
As I mentioned at the outset, Volume 50 is released today and unusually it features one of the most famous concertos in the repertoire - Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1. But as you would expect from Stephen Hough and Hyperion, this isn’t just another ‘ordinary’ performance. As the Times newspaper said in their excellent review last Friday:
"With Hough at the keys, the First Concerto becomes no warhorse taken for a dutiful trot but a freshly imagined masterpiece bouncing with surprises and invention"
Hough’s ability to escape from the stylistic traditions which have grown up over the years and re-examine pieces from the inside is only bettered by his ability to champion and convince in works which are otherwise generally regarded second-string. The rest of this two-disc set is much more typical for the Romantic Piano Concerto Series as it contains the rarely performed 2nd and 3rd Concertos as well as the Concert Fantasy and alternative versions of the slow movement for the 2nd Concerto.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable and revelatory set and a perfect way to bring up this milestone in the series. Rest assured that the series isn’t about to stop with, I’m told, the next seven volumes already planned! To celebrate we’re offering 25% off all 49 previous volumes and Special Price on the new set. Enjoy!
Stephen Hough (piano), Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä
Available Format: CD