HAMBRAEUS; LENNERS Piano Concertos
Ortwin Stürmer is the pianist for whom Horațiu Rădulescu wrote much of his piano music, works of which Stürmer made the premiere recordings (they are currently being re-recorded for Mode by Stephen Clarke). This Neos disc features Stürmer as soloist in two concertos similarly dedicated to him, each of which is propelled by a certain Sturm und Drang.
Bengt Hambræus’s Piano Concerto (1991 92) is a robust single-movement work lasting around 40 minutes. Hambræus characterised the concerto as ‘a gigantic block with different densities’; distinct sections are eschewed in favour of a continuous, rhythmically driven texture in which piano and orchestra integrate rather than alternate. While Hambræus’s early, cluster-based organ music influenced Ligeti’s Volumina, this concerto is neo-tonal in character, and the insistent occurrence throughout of a bell-like chord, major thirds and minor sixths, suggests kinship with the tonality of Arvo Pärt, albeit shot through with dramatic tension. Stürmer drives the work with urgency, though Hambræus’s material wears thin by the end.
The story of Phaeton, as found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, provides Luxembourg composer Claude Lenners with the programme for his Concerto for piano and string orchestra (1999). Lenners presents the young Greek – who insisted on riding the chariot of the sun, only to lose control of the reins – as an analogy for our contemporary technology-riven society. The piano style, as in the Hambræus, tends to the percussive, lines galloping up and down the keyboard throughout. Lenners’s score is finely poised: more or less continuous piano is backed by a wide range of string textures, from straightforward tremolo to extended techniques.
Each of these recordings is from a live performance; accordingly, in the Hambræus the winds can at times be difficult to make out, while in the Lenners the page-turning is occasionally audible.