Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 30 Jun 2006

Herz Piano

Piano Concerto no. 3, op 87
Piano Concerto no. 4, op 131
Piano Concerto no. 5, op 180
Howard Shelley – piano
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
CD, Hyperion

Heinrich/Henri Herz (1803/6-1888)

The son of a musician, Heinrich Herz was born in Vienna. He studied first with his father, then at Coblenz and finally entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he became a prize-winning piano student. In 1821 the great pianist, composer and pedagogue, Ignaz Moscheles visited Paris and was to have a profound influence on Herz’s style. His career went from strength to strength as a pianist, composer, teacher, inventor and piano manufacturer. It is hard to believe now that in his day, he was more popular a pianist than Liszt, Chopin and various other pianists, and he was able to charge more per ticket for this recitals and concerts, in which he played mainly his own compositions (of which there are 8 piano concertos). From the 1830s, Herz joined up with the Klepfa manufacturer of pianos, and although this venture failed, Herz whent on to establish his own piano factory which actually managed to improve on Erard’s double-escape mechanism. His pianos went on to win prizes at International Expositions.

I won’t go on to describe each movement of the three concertos in detail, but this music is far from being purely virtuosic music of no substance. Admittedly, there is a lot of difficult piano writing intended to show off the player’s ability, which Howard Shelley does with tremendous clarity and beautiful touch. But at times, the writing is tender and delicate – my favourite movement being the second movement of the 3rd piano concerto, the opening theme to which sounds as though it is based on a Scottish lullaby. Both the orchestra and the soloist create a simple and beautiful sound. This is a lovely recording and it is nice to hear something different from this era in composition. (M.North)

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