Hard to believe but this is No. 41 in Hyperion’s series on The Romantic Piano Concerto! This time we have a German pianist/composer who died in 1849 and was quickly forgotten, although during his lifetime he was known for having a tremendous ego. In his day Kalbrenner was indeed a major celebrity – as a pianist, composer, teacher and businessman. His facility at the keyboard impressed even Chopin. Later in life he became a partner of piano-maker Camille Pleyel in Paris and was also a fashionable teacher.
The First Concerto of 1823 is obviously intended as a virtuoso display piece for the piano soloist. Pianist Shelley – who expertly tackles one after another offbeat concerto scores for this Hyperion series – is kept busy from start to finish, with hardly a moment his hands are not on the keyboard. The work’s conclusion may remind one of Chopin’s later Concerto in E minor. This is the first recording ever of the Fourth Piano Concerto of 1835. It includes orchestral parts for a trio of trombones. The dramatic work also emphasizes the virtuoso approach, with impressive writing for the piano soloist. Robert Schumann groused about this concerto of “manufactured pathos and affected profundity.” Listen and decide if you agree. At least we have another couple of neglected piano concertos in the can in fine performances and sonics.
– John Sunier