Hyperion’s latest Romantic Piano Concertos disc features the work of Henrique Oswald and Alfredo Napoleão. Hailing from Brazil and Portugal respectively, both were born in 1852 and enjoyed fruitful careers as pedagogues, performers and composers.
Oswald’s Piano Concerto in G Minor is rich with opportunities to demonstrate musical artistry and Portuguese virtuoso Artur Pizarro executes the solo line with class. It is clear Oswald, like Rachmaninov, knew how to use the form to demonstrate his own ability as a pianist. The soloist has to possess impressive stamina to complete this technical marathon. In the first movement, Pizarro embodies nervous energy as he dances around the keyboard. A brief moment of respite comes in the second movement where the orchestra gently sings the theme as Pizarro plays arpeggios. The BBC National Orchestra plays beautifully under Brabbins with no trace of difficulty in executing the challenges of the third movement.
Strident opening chords make it apparent that Napoleão’s Second Piano Concerto is a dramatically different piece. The second movement is cheeky and intimate, while a gentle clarinet solo gives ample opportunity for Pizarro to play with the final movement’s character, colour and texture. This is a terrific concerto and, for this reviewer, it was the highlight of the disc. Napoleão deserves more champions.