Friends and Rivals: Beethoven and Hoffmeister

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Friends and Rivals: Beethoven and Hoffmeister

£9.99

This second Friends and Rivals disc includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Hoffmeister’s rare Piano Concerto in D major (BR0009) featuring pianist Felicja Blumental with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

SKU: BR0009 Categories: , ,

Description

This second Friends and Rivals disc includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Hoffmeister’s rare Piano Concerto in D major (BR0009) featuring pianist Felicja Blumental with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15

Felicja Blumental – piano
Robert Wagner – conductor
Vienna Symphony Orchestra

  • Allegro con brio (18’46)
  • Largo (12’03)
  • Rondo-Finale-Allegro (9’26)

Franz Anton Hoffmeister – Piano Concerto in D major

Felicja Blumental – piano
Alberto Zedda – conductor
Prague Chamber Orchestra

  • Allegro brioso (14’54)
  • Adagio (7’41)
  • Allegretto (9’36)

Total running time (72’26)

 

It is noticeable that there are relatively few major works from the first decades of the 19th Century still in the repertoire, and of course Beethoven’s tower over any of them. But although his cantankerous nature was legendary, Beethoven’s disdain for his contemporaries may just have reflected how few composers were attempting to write masterpieces at the time.

In this picture, Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812) holds an unusual place; a contemporary composer of some note, and one of Beethoven’s publishers. He had come to Vienna to study law, but was so entranced with the musical scene that he took to composing. He subsequently founded a publishing firm, Bureau de Musique, which later became the prominent firm C F Peters.

While it is perhaps no surprise that Hoffmeister’s works have not all survived, it is sobering to recall that a hundred years after the publication of Beethoven’s first piano concerto, neither his works nor those of Bach or Mozart were often played in Vienna (except, as the great pianist Artur Schnabel recalled, “by students and debutantes”). It is unlikely Beethoven will be neglected again, and, fortunately, some artists still seek out those works which have fallen by the wayside, such as Hoffmeister’s Piano Concerto recorded here.

The pianist Felicja Blumental’s repertoire included many lesser known works. Her husband, the art collector Markus Mizne, patiently combed the libraries of Europe in search of neglected and forgotten works for his wife, including Beethoven’s own transcription of his violin concerto, replete with original cadenza (available on Brana Records, BR0004). The New York Times said, “the listener cannot help but be grateful to Miss Blumental for going to the trouble of learning all these works and recording them. She is a fine pianist, who gives a clear account of the music”

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 1 in C, Op. 15

Beethoven began work on the concerto and performed it publicly in Vienna in 1795, completing it in 1798, and later writing out cadenzas around 1807. This concerto was actually composed after the concerto known as no.2 in B flat (Op.19); it was published 9 months earlier and consequently received a lower Opus number.

The work is unmistakably Beethoven, more impressive in its writing than the B flat concerto, and unashamedly happy in mood. It has remained popular with pianists and audiences. As an aside, it was the first concerto by another composer that Rachmaninoff studied, and the last he performed (he described it as “not too difficult…divine music”).

The first movement opens quietly, as with most of Beethoven’s concerti, but is full of surprises. The poetic slow movement is the longest of all his concerti, and becomes ever more beautifully elaborate as it progresses. The Rondo finale is lively and inventive, almost a chase between soloist and orchestra, with a rousing conclusion.

Franz Anton Hoffmeister: Piano Concerto in D

Believed to have been published in Vienna in 1787, Hoffmeister’s piano concerto is little known, and certainly this writer has encountered no other recording of it. In the current repertoire, Hoffmeister is better known for his Viola Concerto and some string quartets.

The sunny opening movement is firmly in the Mozartian style. The slow movement is an expansive and slightly restless melodic Adagio, while the final movement eschews barnstorming style for simple harmonious interplay between piano and orchestra and a gentle romp for the soloist. The work does not perhaps have the stamp of greatness, but it is clear why Hoffmeister was respected as a composer by his contemporaries.