(The) Romantic Piano Concertos - 20
Ignaz Brull (1846-1907) is remembered today for two things: first his hugely successful opera Das goldene Kreuz, and secondly, for being a member of Brahms’s circle in Vienna. His association with Brahms has to some extent militated against an independent evaluation of his work, something this recording should go some way towards redressing. As so often with earlier volumes, we are indebted to Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series for unearthing such a wealth of wonderful music and presenting it so superbly.
Brull was an early developer (the booklet contains a photograph of him aged 24 with a six-inch beard!) and his two piano concertos are youthful works. The first was written when he was just 14, and it shows an incredible fertility of ideas and maturity of formal and orchestral handling. The first movement is bold and passionate, and the finale is witty and brilliant, but it is the powerful central Andante that most impresses. The Second Concerto, written when Brull was 22, is a more accomplished work, with a stronger melodic vein and more varied and imaginative orchestral writing. After its publication in 1875 it was more widely played than the First Concerto, and unlike the other works on this disc it has been recorded before (by Frank Cooper on Genesis). The Andante and Allegro, Op. 88 (1902) is a more mature work, the lyrical first section (based on an earlier unpublished song) offset by a sparkling finale.
The performances are exemplary, full of warmth and character from soloist and orchestra. Indeed, this is one of the finest discs I’ve heard from Roscoe, his muscularity and authoritative firmness of style complemented by his delicacy and range of colour. And the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra offer tonal refinement and some lovely woodwind playing. All this is helped by the full and clean recorded sound – the clarity, balance and tonal blending really are magnificent – and the lucid and informative booklet-essay further adds to the value of this disc. Another Hyperion triumph.'