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‘Paul Wee – pianist and barrister’ is how this young Australian styles himself, and if his work at the bar is anything like as good as his pianism, his success in that business is assured. With this music, anyone’s pianism would be tested to its limits, for no 19th- century note-spinner built more towering keyboard edifices than these two works. In his elegant liner note, Wee suggests that they should be seen as part of the piano transcription tradition, which was how most listeners of the period encountered symphonies and concertos, though as he points out, this concerto incorporates the usual soloist-orchestra duality.

At 26 minutes, Alkan’s Symphony is of conventional length, but the Concerto’s first movement alone lasts 30 minutes, and frankly long outstays its welcome. There are times when the lyricism charms and the invention feels fresh, but as the minutes tick by one has a sense of all-dressed-up-and-nowhere-to- go, with the composer repeatedly recycling the same tricks. If this movement is heavily indebted to Chopin, other movements on this disc are suggestive of Liszt, even of Schubert: they’re almost wall-to-wall virtuosity, but Wee makes the most of their musical virtues. These works may be curiosities rather than candidates for inclusion in the regular concert repertoire, but since they have never been paired on a disc before, Wee’s recording earns him a place in the history books.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica


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