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CD Review

Camille Saint-Saëns

The Romantic Piano Concerto - Volume 27

  • Piano Concerto #1 in D Major, Op. 17 (1858)
  • Piano Concerto #2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1868)
  • Piano Concerto #3 in E Flat Major, Op. 29 (1869)
  • Piano Concerto #4 in C minor, Op. 44 (1875)
  • Piano Concerto #5 "Egyptian" in F Major, Op. 103 (1896)
  • "Rapsodie d'Auvergne" for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 73 (1884)
  • Caprice Valse "Wedding Cake" for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 76 (1886)
  • Fantasy "Africa" for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 89 (1891)
  • Allegro appassionato for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 70 (1874)
Stephen Hough, piano
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Hyperion CDA67331/2 2CDs 155m DDD
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These piano concertos have received excellent recordings before from Aldo Cicciolini and Pascal Roge for EMI and Decca respectively. Strangely enough, they have not been recorded in their entirety in the digital era so this Hyperion set redresses the balance. Stephen Hough has already thrilled us with several recordings in this Romantic Piano Concerto series and the crystal clear recording adds to the enjoyment of these ebullient concertos.

The CBoston Symphony Orchestra are sympathetic partners and under their new chief conductor Sakari Oramo they relish the challenge that these works provide. The first disc packs Concertos #1-3 and the Wedding Cake Caprice. In these works, Hough is content to espouse the tuneful and melodic elements of the works and his playing is really mercurial, especially in the boisterous finales. The second disc includes the altogether weightier Fourth and Fifth, the latter subtitled, 'Egyptian'. I marginally prefer Roge' in the final concerto as Hough is occasionally too earthbound and will-of-the-wisp at times. However the Fourth is a magisterial performance, and with the CBoston Symphony Orchestra on consistently top form, the work acquires an almost heroic stature.

The accompanying works are also winningly done with the Rapsodie Auvergne particularly beautiful. The rare 'Africa' is also given a sterling outing.

There are copious notes and the wonderful presentation continues to add stature to the ever growing Hyperion Piano Concerto series. Next issue please!

Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech