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Ease and brilliance

Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger

Crescendo (France), Jean-Marie André

Two Composers of the great German tradition: Rheinberger and Scholz.

The sources of the Hyperion series on romantic piano concertos are not lacking; it makes us discover composers practically ignored on concert programmes such as Felix Draeseke, Alexander Dreyschock, Salomon Jadasson, Alexander Goedicke, Henry Holden Huss, Theodor Kullak, Joseph Marx, Ernest Schelling, Zygmund Stojowski, … and so on. It is today on its 76th volume and, if Joseph Rheinberger has retained a certain presence, Bernhard Scholz, on the contrary, has disappeared through the trap of history. He was, however, one of the important members of Clara Schumann’s musical circle, along with Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms. Joseph Rheinberger, who was Kapellmeister of the court of Louis II of Bavaria, has, for his part, retained his reputation as an organist – he wrote two important organ concertos and multiple compositions for the instrument. He is the missing link between Mendelssohn and Reger. He leaves us austere music that makes the impossible synthesis between Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and the contrapuntal Bach.

The scores of the three works recorded here are teeming with scales, thirds, octaves, arpeggios, sixteenth notes, virtuosic features always very spectacular but which mask the deficiencies of thematic development. Anyway, we are faced with robust scores that demonstrate the expertise of their authors. This is how the Scholz concerto entered the repertoire of Clara Schumann who premiered it in 1875.

The concerto and capriccio of Scholz are mentioned as first recordings. The Rheinberger concerto was already part of the earlier, less complete, Vox anthology of the Romantic Piano Concertos under Michaël Ponti’s fingers in 1978. At the beginning of his forties, the American pianist (though born in Germany) had made a specialism of concertos by Thalberg, Moscheles, Hiller, Reinecke and others including Kalkbrenner. Simon Callaghan is even younger with his 29 years (sic!). Youth is therefore looking at these technically difficult pages, which are now erased from musical evolution.

Callaghan has all the resources to approach this repertoire with ease and brilliance without neglecting the delicacy of the lyrical passages. Like his predecessor, Michael Ponti, he creates an untapped niche with these unusual scores.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is directed in perfect harmony with the excellent Callaghan by the equally young Ben Gernon.

We can only salute the prowess of the performers who draw our attention to these unknown concertos …

A priority for collectors of the series and lovers of unusual discoveries.

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05/07/2020