Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dussek Piano Concertos Launch Hyperion Series

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Piano Concertos
Classical Piano Concerto, Vol. 1
Howard Shelly, piano/conductor
Ulster Orchestra

Following the success of their Romantic Piano Concerto series (63 volumes and counting), Hyperion launches a companion series, The Classical Piano Concerto, featuring music from 1770-1820. It marked the rise of the piano virtuoso, the traveling artist who composed primarily to showcase his own talents. Mozart is one of the more famous examples, but certainly not the only one.

Jan Ladislav Dussek, whose music launches this series, was another. Dussek was roughly contemporary with Mozart. Born in Bohemia, he made his fortune in France (before the Revolution), lost it in England, regained it touring Europe and eventually settling in post-Revolutionary France.

The three concertos on this release traverse his career. The Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 1, No.3 from 1783 is Mozartian in form, with simple, attractive melodies at every turn. The Piano concerto of C major, Op. 29 (1795) is a more fully-developed work. Dussek abandoned the first-movement cadenza, making his later concertos sound like a more collaborative effort between piano and orchestra. The texture of this work is thicker, looking ahead the early Romantic composers, such as Mendelssohn and Weber.

The final work, the Piano concerto in E-flat major, Op. 70 (1810) retains the elegance of Haydn, with the more full-bodied orchestration of early Beethoven.

Howard Shelley, a veteran of the Romantic Piano Concerto series, performs and conducts the Ulster Orchestra from the keyboard. His clean attacks and articulate phrasing are a joy to listen to. This recording promises that this series will meet the same high standards as the Romantic Piano Concerto series.

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