GOETZ Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Hermann Goetz (1840 76) enjoyed a tragically brief, Mozartian lifespan. Though his music was quickly forgotten after his death, it also attracted high praise in some quarters, none more extravagant (bafflingly so, as Naxos’s booklet reminds us) than from George Bernard Shaw, who put Goetz above Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and, in some respects, Mozart and Brahms!
These two piano concertos and the pleasant if slight Spring Overture hardly back up such a claim but are clearly the work of a diligent and gifted German-trained musician of the mid-19th century. The E flat First Piano Concerto is a student work from 1861, never published during Goetz’s lifetime, and cast as a three-in-one single-movement work. In Davide Cabassi’s hands it lasts 19'41". There is plenty to keep him busy: a lightly scored, immediately attractive piece indebted to Schumann and Mendelssohn (though definitely not by them).
The B flat Second Piano Concerto from six years later is altogether more distinguished. I was unduly harsh about it when reviewing Michael Ponti’s recording of it, included in the wonderful Brilliant Classics box set of Romantic Concertos (8/16). It is not in the same class as the best of those from this period (1860s and ’70s) but has many attractive and individual ideas which, I have to admit, grow on you.
The Italian soloist, Magdeburg players and Taiwanese-born conductor give both works full-bodied, characterful readings in a sound picture I marginally prefer to the only other recording of the two concertos, with Volker Barnfield the impressive soloist on the CPO label. The new Naxos disc, moreover, has the bonus of the Spring Overture. Ponti’s B flat Concerto remains the most compelling but is let down by inferior sound and piano tone; Hamish Milne’s is the most carefully observed and beautiful to hear (it’s coupled with Józef Wieniawski’s Piano Concerto – Hyperion, 1/11).