SALOMON JADASSOHN: Piano Concertos No. 1 in C minor & No. 2 in F minor; FELIX DRAESEKE: Piano Concerto in E flat Major – Markus Becker, piano/Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Sanderling – Hyperion CDA67636, 69:59 ***** [Dist. by Harmonia mundi] [Release date: Mar. 10, 09]:
Would you believe this is Volume 47 of Hyperion’s long-running series on The Romantic Piano Concerto? Once again we have a couple pretty much unknown also-rans of Romantic music, and again they are not only fun to listen to but would probably be big hits with live audiences if substituted for those tired old piano concertos that keep getting programmed over and over at concerts.
These three concertos were dug up in the Fleischer Collection in Philadelphia. The next question is where do they find the courageous pianists to learn to play these obscure concertos? Markus Becker is just one of them – he has recorded the first complete edition of all of Max Reger’s piano music – 12 CDs – and has performed with leading orchestra all over Europe.
Both composers were born in the 1830s and lived until 1902 and 1913 respectively. Jadassohn was best-known as a pedagogue – among his pupils were Grieg, Delius and Busoni. At his time he was considered a rival of Brahms, and among his compositions was a sacred counterpart to Wagner’s Ring titled Christus: A Mystery in Three Oratorios. Liszt praised Draeseke’s Piano Sonata, and the composer was originally highly imitative of Wagner – even moving to Weimar to be closer to his hero. Later on he pulled away from the New German School and more toward choral music. His piano concerto has a hymn-like theme for its Adagio movement, the keyboard filigrees are very much in the Late Romantic style, and the orchestration is colorful and creative.
Both Wagner and Liszt influence the two concertos of Jadassohn. The first concerto has similar proportions to Liszt’s First Piano Concerto. The second has a lovely long middle slow movement that plays with the listener’s expectations. Why did these concertos fall by the wayside? Perhaps it was due to their composers being unable to come up with really catchy melodies loaded with musical possibilities. Some of Jadassohn’s students – such as Grieg – were much less adept at the construction and development of their musical themes, but they seemed to spin out a series of unforgettable melodies making up for that. Contrasting political fallout also affected the two composers. Jadassohn was Jewish, and his music was suppressed by the Nazis during the 1930s, whereas Draeseke was championed by the National Socialists, resulting in his music being tainted by its connections following the war. Recorded just last year in Berlin, sonics are first rate, as usual with Hyperion. Let’s hear it for obscure piano concertos!
– John Sunier