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The handful of recordings that already exist... are sent into the shadows by Simon Callaghan.

The handful of recordings that already exist of Rheinberger are sent into the shadows by Simon Callaghan ✶✶✶

The name of Josef Rheinberger is nowadays hardly ever encountered on concert programs. Only organ lovers will almost certainly come into contact with the work of the man from Liechtenstein (1839-1901). The Cantilena from his Eleventh organ sonata, made famous in the Netherlands by Feike Asma, is the only 'hit' that has stood the test of time.

A new CD with his Piano Concerto proves that there is still much to be gained from Rheinberger's comprehensive oeuvre, who by the age of seven had already composed masses and was highly regarded in his time.

The recording can be found in the series, The Romantic Piano Concerto by the British label, Hyperion. On this volume 76 Simon Callaghan is soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, led by the young conductor Ben Gernon.

After an optimistic theme follows a sparkling musical argument in which the focus is on the piano (the orchestra part in the first movement, moderato, contains a lot of unison), but in which the musical trapeze acts are not forthcoming. Characteristic is the cadenza, which begins with a quasi-fugue that reminds one of Beethoven. Fleeting references to Schumann and Brahms are also heard, but never does one think: I've heard this before. It is a lovely piece by an intelligent composer who sought the adventure in miniatures.

The handful of extant recordings are sent into the shadows by this version. Gernon's tempi are more convincing and Callaghan's playing breathes pleasure into the music. The other piano concerto on the album, that of Brahms-admirer Bernhard Scholz (1835-1916), is also worthwhile.

With the name Rheinberger you may not sell tickets (yet), but his piano concerto should certainly be able to conquer hearts. Who will put him on concert programmes in the Netherlands?

Merlijn Kerkhof

De Volkskrant (Netherlands) 8 August 2018

Rheinberger/Scholz Concertos

Just what the Romantic Piano Concerto series does best: three works unlikely to be encountered in the concert hall, in performances by artists who wholeheartedly—and justifiably—believe in the music. The high expectations of this series are amply realized in volume seventy-six. Watch the trailer here.

Read programme notes here.

Specialist Classical Chart: Best position #2 on 05/07/2018. Weeks in chart: 5