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CHAN 10509
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CHAN 10509

Howard Shelley / Opera North Orchestra - Schumann/ Grieg/Saint-Saens: Piano Concertos

The Classical Shop
release date: March 2009

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 2008


Opera North Orchestra

Howard Shelley

Howard Shelley



Victoria Hall, Leeds Town Hall


Rachel Smith


Ralph Couzens

Jonathan Cooper


Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 78:56
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Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (1841-45)

  in a-Moll - en la mineur  
1 I Allegro affettuoso 12:57
2 II Intermezzo. Andantino grazioso - 4:42
3 III Allegro vivace 10:23



Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (1868, rev. 1907)

  in a-Moll - en la mineur  
4 I Allegro molto moderato 11:56
5 II Adagio - 6:24
6 III Allegro moderato molto e marcato 10:11



Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1868)

  in g-Moll - en sol mineur  
7 I Andante sostenuto 9:59
8 II Allegro scherzando 5:48
9 III Presto 6:36
March’s Disc of the Month sees Howard Shelley, recently awarded an OBE for his services to music, conduct the Orchestra of Opera North from the piano.

In this his latest recording for Chandos Shelley turns his attention to three popular concertos in the piano repertoire: Robert Schumann’s only completed piano concerto, Grieg’s single piano concerto and Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. These authoritative performances shed new light on three well-loved works, brought together on one disc for the first time.

Shelley elucidates his revelatory approach to the works: ‘Ever since I first fell in love with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in my early teens, I have been intrigued and slightly puzzled by the tradition of slowing the fourth bar of the Allegro affettuoso first movement to what is effectively no more than an Andante, even though there is no indication of any tempo shift in the score. A metronome marking of 84 to the minim, taken from Schumann’s manuscript, is given in almost all editions of this work, reducing only to 72 to the dotted minim for the central Andante espressivo section. These are extraordinarily fast basic tempos. There are similar issues in the second movement – a surprisingly fast metronome mark, suggesting perhaps a lighter lyricism than we are sometimes used to, especially in the big cello melody – and also in the first movement of Saint-Saëns’s Second Concerto, which is often taken at about half its marked speed.

As for Grieg’s Concerto, we are fortunate to have Percy Grainger’s very informative and detailed notes on the piece, as he discussed it with the composer. Elsewhere he points out that Grieg’s tempos were generally faster than when others played the piece. These are some of the considerations which have led to the interpretations on this recording. Directing a highly responsive orchestra from the keyboard has also allowed me great freedom in realising my ideas.’

"... a musically satifying performance of these three warhorses."

Pianist - December 2009 /January 2010

"I think many listeners will agree with me that this is the most finely realised and ravishingly beautiful Schumann Concert to have come for a long time… Both performances are on a high level, distinguished by the singularity of intent possible with the conductor as soloist, but without doubt, it’s the Schumann Concerto that steals the show. On the basis of its virtues alone this recording must be very highly recommended."

International Record Review

"The fine rapport between pianist and orchestra is captured expertly in the recorded balance."

International Piano

"Here’s something that’s well worth pointing out: a modern version of Schumann’s Piano Concerto that actually sounds like Schumann. Howard Shelley’s performance is refreshingly free from empty showmanship or narcissistic ‘pianism’. It uncovers nervous volatility, refined tenderness and dreamy lateral thinking associated with great solo piano works ... without for a moment sounding contentious or didactic ... The Grieg and Saint-Saëns are full of lovely things, especially the slow movement of the Grieg - this music can touch without being the slightest bit sentimental or oversweet."

BBC Music Magazine

"The fact that Howard Shelley directs these inspirational performances from the piano is nothing short of remarkable. In his hands, sparkling virtuosity and interpretative ease combine to form a perfect musical marriage. Rarely has the Schumann sounded so rhythmically exuberant, crowned by a finale of flair and forward momentum. So too the Grieg, which emerges fresh as a mountain stream as the melodies fall over themselves in an effort to be heard. Best of all is Saint-Saëns Concerto no 2, which receives its finest recording since Rubinstien’s classic made nearly half a century ago."

Classic FM Magazine

B Newton

P Hadfield