Romantic Piano Concerto Vol.22 : Busoni (CD)

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Marc-André Hamelin, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mark Elder

“Busoni's Piano Concerto has never become a repertoire piece. It fits awkwardly into a concert programme, due to its length and its choral finale, and the extreme difficulty of its solo writing can't quite disguise the fact that it's really more of a symphony with an elaborate piano part than a real concerto. This new recording might just change all that, for like no other performance (not even Garrick Ohlsson's stunning account on Telarc) it proves what a richly enjoyable piece it is. Without in the least understating the grandeur of the central movement (or its Faustian pointers to Busoni's later style), it finds humour not only of the gallows kind in the first Scherzo (even a touch of irony to its nostalgic centre), while the brilliant tarantella second Scherzo is often very funny indeed: Busoni celebrates his Italian ancestry, but at times bursts into helpless laughter at it as well. Hamelin obviously loves the work's opportunities for grand romantic pianism and barnstorming, and he has a fine ear for its stark boldness. Elder is splendidly eloquent, from the nobly Brahmsian introduction to the full-throatedly sung finale.
Both are at their best in the central Pezzo Serioso, which is grand and grave, but alert to the pres- ence of Chopin as well as Liszt. The recording is warm and spacious, the piano at times just a touch (but forgivably) close. This is a remarkable performance.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010