SCHARWENKA: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 32. Polish Dance in E flat minor, Op. 3 No. l. PADEREWSKI: Theme and Variations, Op. 16 No. 3. Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17. Fantasie Polonaise in G minor, Op. 19.
Earl Wild, pianist; Boston Symphony Orch/Erich Leinsdorf (Schwarenka concerto); London Symphony Orch/Arthur Fiedler (Paderewski)
IVORY CLASSICS 64405-77003 (2 CDs) (F) TT: 60:27 & 32:05
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58.
Lang Lang, pianist; Orchestra of Paris/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
DGG B0008725 (F) TT: 74:30
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VILLA-LOBOS: Piano Concerto No. 5. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3. Garibaldi foi a Missa. Danca do Indio Branco. GUARNIERI: Danca Brasileira. MIGNONE: Serenata Humoristica. TAVARES: Concerto in Brazilian Forms for Piano and Orchestra No. 2, Op. 105. ALBENIZ: Spanish Rhapsody, Op. 70. Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 78. CZERNY: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 214. Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 75. STAMITZ: Piano Concerto in F. VOLGER: Variations on "Marlborough, s'en va-t-en guerra." RIES: Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, Op. 55. BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (transcribed by composer for piano). Rondo in B flat, WoO6. Piano Concerto in D.
Felicja Blumenthal, pianist; various orch/conductors
BRANA RECORDS BR0029 (5 CDs) TT: 58:27 / 61:07 /68:34 / 59:25 / 71:02
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PADEREWSKI: Piano Sonata in E flat minor, Op. 21. Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in A minor, Op. 11. Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in E flat minor, Op. 23.
Jonathan Plowright, pianist
HYPERION CDA 67562 (F) TT: 79:59
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BRAHMS: Variations on a Hungarian Song, Op. 21 No. 2. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24. Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Books I and II)
Olga Kern, pianist
HARMONIA MUNDI 907392 (F) TT: 62:32
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Earl Wild's spectacular performances of Scharwenka's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Paderewski's Piano Concerto in A minor were released more than a decade ago on Elan (2266), welcome indeed as the RCA originals had long been discontinued. The Scharwenka was recorded in 1969, the Paderewski the following year, and the coupling was Balakirev's Fantasia on themes from Glinka's A Life for the Tsar. The Elan disk is still available and might be preferred by some collectors as it contains the two major concertos. Ivory Classics has been a bit stingy in couplings on their new issue; of course the Paderewski Fantasie Polonaise is important, but the second CD has barely more than a half-hour's playing time; they easily could have included the Balakirev and other Wild showpieces—and the Ivory Classics release is full-price.

We can be certain Lang Lang will continue to record profusely—his recordings obviously sell. This, his first venture into Beethoven, offers Concerto No. 1 and Concerto No. 4 with accompaniments by Orchestre de Paris directed by Christoph Eschenbach recorded in Salle Pleyel in Paris in January 2007. Lang Lang and Eschenbach have been close associates since 1999 and apparently have performed together frequently. These performances of two Beethoven concertos are deftly played without the mannerisms we have come to expect from Lang Lang, but will hardly be on anyone's favored list of recordings of either work. A plus is that we don't have to watch Lang Lang's gesticulations at the keyboard, a minus is sound that limits piano sonority.

Felicia Blumenthal is a name familiar to record collectors in the early days of LPs. Born in Poland in 1908, she had an adventurous career and was associated with many leading composers of the time including Villa-Lobos, Szymanowski (with whom she studied), and Krzystof Penderecki who wrote his Partita for Harpsichord and Orchestra for her (see REVIEW).She died in Israel in 1991 and left an impressive legacy of recordings many of which are included in this new Brama release: Beethoven including the piano version of the violin concerto, many premiere recordings including works of Czerny, Ries, Stamitz, Vogler. along with her early '50s monophonic Decca recording of the delightful Concerto in Brazilian Forms, Op. 105, with Anatole Fistoulari and the London Symphony. Also on this disk we have works for piano and orchestra by Albeniz. No question that the most important works in this set are those conducted by Villa-Lobos, including the composer's Piano Concerto No. 5 which he wrote for Blumenthal, a live performance recorded in Vienna May 25, 1955. These are important recordings of great interest to collectors and have been very well transferred from original sources.

Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) was a major figure on the Polish musical/political scene and for a brief time was Prime Minister of Poland. His concerts were sold out, and he often traveled in his own railway car. Although acclaimed as a virtuoso (he studied with Teodor Leszetycki), none of his recordings display the kind of virtuoso playing displayed by today's generation of pianists. His opera Manru was presented at the Met in 1902 and has now fallen into oblivion. Paderewski is best known as a composer for his solo piano work Minuet in G, and his two concerted works for piano and orchestra (recorded by Earl Wild, see above). His large-scale piano works are lesser-known, and Hyperion is trying to rectify that with this issue of his 35-minute E-flat piano sonata, and two sets of variations and fugues on original themes. Jonathan Plowright plays this music with remarkable virtuosity and does all that can be done for these scores, but even his artistry cannot make this music of more than passing interest. As usual with Hyperion, recorded sound is splendid.

Russian pianist Olga Kern (born April 23, 1975) has won many competitions, in particular the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in which she was Gold Medalist. She continues to impress in her latest recording, Brahms's Variations on a Hungarian Song, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, and both books of Variations on a Theme by Paganini. She plays these with the greatest of ease, and has been beautifully recorded by producer Robina G. Young and recording engineer Brad Michel at Skywalker Sound studios in California.

R.E.B. (October 2007)