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BACH: Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in f; HAYDN: Piano Con. in D; MENDELSSOHN: Piano Con. in a – Joshua Pierce, p./ Slovak Nat. Sym. Orch./ Kirk Trevor – MSR Classics

Fine, persuasive pianism from a well-known source.

BACH: Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in f, BWV 1056; HAYDN: Piano Concerto in D, Hob. XVIII; MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto in a – Joshua Pierce, p./ Slovak National Sym. Orch./ Kirk Trevor – MSR Classics 1496, 62:44 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

It comes as no surprise to me that Joshua Pierce, who has already turned in a marvelous album of Mendelssohn’s two-piano concertos on MSR, should turn to a solo concerto outing. What is surprising is his choice here, the early (about 13 years old) A-minor concerto that has been nearly forgotten, written after the composer’s encounter with Hummel in Weimar. Of course, his later concertos aren’t exactly burning up the concert halls these days either, though most artists of substance have felt the need to contribute performances, most notably Murray Perahia in recent years. And none of them has the lasting, enduring “profundity” that other works like those of Mozart seem to contribute. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn’s pieces are always involving and engaging, as wedded pianistically to the page as that of any composer, ever. Pierce revels in this music, and you can feel the enjoyment.

The Bach No. 5 is well known, has been well-trodden, mostly on album compilations of all his keyboard concertos, and it is nice to hear it a varied program like this one. The Haydn, his most popular and greatest piano concerto, is probably the star of the show here, both in substance and in performance. Pierce really tears into this one, with an exuberance and élan that takes your breath away, making the case that it belongs in every way in the same class as Mozart’s concertos.

The Slovak SO plays very well, not as crisp and tonally secure as the major orchestras, but certainly in all ways professional. A fine release.

—Steven Ritter

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