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For the 77th issue in their endlessly absorbing ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series, Hyperion has exhumed two rarities by Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf (1830-1913) and Anton Urspruch (1850-1907).

As the sleeve note tells us, Bronsart gave the first performance of Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, conducted by the composer and dedicated to the pianist. Sadly, Bonsart’s early hyperactivity petered out leaving him in a series of mundane administrative jobs, so it is good to have him rescued from oblivion. An early recording by Michael Ponti, while brilliant and athletic, is easily eclipsed by the playing of Emmanuel Despax who revels in Bronsart’s high drama and its propulsion by urgent Chopinesque figuration. The finale dismisses all possible introspection with a whirling tarantella, complete with triumphal climax though startlingly abrupt end.

Turning to Urspruch, an even less familiar figure, is to encounter music of lesser ambition but delightful charm. Once again Chopin’s influence is felt, but Urspruch is haunted by the alternately robust and shimmering trills and patterns of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto. Tossing cascades of stardust over his gentle themes, he dismisses the Andante’s darker note with a high-spirited finale. How Saint-Saëns would have loved Urspruch’s playfulness and sparkle, never more so than in scales that flash across the keyboard like summer lightening, a prophecy of his own First Piano Concerto.

No praise could be high enough for Despax with his immaculate dexterity, his elegant grace and fluency. Hyperion’s sound and balance are superb and Eugene Tzigane’s partnership is warmly sympathetic. This is a delectable disc.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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