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Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Howard Shelley – Benjamin Godard – Piano Concertos (2014) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Benjamin Godard – Piano Concertos – Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Howard Shelley (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:10:11 minutes | 1,14 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records | © Hyperion Records
Recorded: April 2013, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

In sharp contradistinction to the rest of the composers in this series, all of whom look like walruses, Benjamin Godard looks quite a lot like Johnny Depp in his daguerreotype. We should be marketing this directly to teenage girls.

Howard Shelley directs the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the piano in this latest volume of The Romantic Piano Concerto series. As ever, they perform unknown music with consummate style and deep understanding, making the best possible case for the works. We have reached Volume 63 and the works of French composer Benjamin Godard, a figure who is almost totally forgotten today. He is described by Jeremy Nicholas in his booklet note as ‘a composer who combines the sentimental melodic appeal of Massenet with the fecundity and technical facility of Saint-Saëns’.

Among Godard’s oeuvre, well over seventy opus numbers are devoted to works for solo piano, ranging from Les contes de Perrault, Op 6, to Valse No 15, Op 153. His Hommage à Chopin can be found on Hyperion CDA67803, performed by Jonathan Plowright. Much of the enormous amount of music he produced followed in the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann (his admiration for the latter inspired a string quartet arrangement of Kinderszenen in 1876). With the emergence of more innovative composers, Godard’s conservative idiom meant his reputation faded before his early death in Cannes on 10 January 1895. However, in the three works presented here his writing for the piano exceeds the technical range of his two idols, and is often reminiscent of the bravura demands found in the concertos of Liszt and Rubinstein.

With Vol 63 of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto’ series we alight upon Benjamin Godard (1849-95), the French composer remembered today, if at all, for the rather lovely Berceuse from his otherwise forgotten opera Jocelyn. On the evidence of his piano concertos in A minor (1875) and G minor (1893) and the Introduction and Allegro of 1880, his heroes were the likes of Mendelssohn and Schumann, seen though the prism, perhaps, of Saint-Saëns. As far as the pianism goes, Godard was evidently fully aware of the new vistas of technique and colour opened up by Liszt. That said, it would be difficult to claim that this music lives long in the memory after having heard it.

It does, however, tickle the senses with some attractive, dramatic ideas during the actual process of listening. There is, for example, a delightful, nifty Saint-Saëns-esque Scherzo to the A minor Concerto, and an even better one in the G minor, but the one in the A minor tends to run out of steam in its middle section. This is the main drawback in both concertos: if Godard has his moments, he seems all too often to lose his way in a labyrinth of lower than top-drawer material, exhausting its potential to lead anywhere. The Introduction and Allegro, less ambitious, is also more successful, with an opening Lento of grandiose pretensions but strong melodic definition as well, and an appealing rum-ti-tum Allegro. The performances by the indefatigable Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian orchestra cannot be faulted. –Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone

Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
Piano Concerto No 1 in A minor Op 31
1 Andante – Allegro vivace[9’48]
2 Scherzo: Allegretto non troppo[4’38]
3 Andante quasi adagio[8’29]
4 Allegro ma non troppo (Vivace)[6’59]
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor Op 148
5 Con moto – Allegro – Moderato[9’35]
6 Andante –[7’17]
7 Scherzo: Allegretto[3’10]
8 Andante maestoso – Moderato[8’33]
Introduction and Allegro Op 49
9 Lento[5’20]
10 Allegro[6’22]

Howard Shelley, piano/conductor
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra


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