Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos

Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos

Howard Shelley (piano), Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Howard Shelley (conductor)


With Volume 48 of our groundbreaking Romantic Piano Concerto series we reach very uncharted territory indeed. Sir Julius Benedict has been all but forgotten today but he is yet another composer who gives the lie to the idea that Britain was ‘a land without music’ in the nineteenth century. Though born in Germany, Benedict settled in London in 1835, having already established a career as composer and pianist on the continent. He arrived in a city which had been the pianistic centre of Europe for the previous thirty years (though that role was shortly thereafter lost to Paris and the new generation of Romantic composers we remember today) and was soon performing his two concertinos in A flat and E flat, the latter work later being expanded into the E flat concerto recorded here. The C minor concerto was to follow in 1850. Both works are very much in the tradition of Hummel, of whom Benedict was a pupil, and combine brilliant virtuosity with an easy lyricism.

The even-more-forgotten Walter Macfarren was the brother of better-known George, an early Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. Walter was for many years a piano professor there, his pupils including Matthay and Henry Wood. His music is very much in the style of Mendelssohn and his Concertstück proves to be a very attractive work which could easily pass as one by the greater master.

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