SOMM Recordings is pleased to announce the return of the acclaimed partnership of pianist Clélia Iruzun and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jac van Steen with two colourful late-19th-century Romantic Piano Concertos from Brazil and France: Henrique Oswald’s G minor Piano Concerto, Op.10 and the Fifth Piano Concerto in F major (Op.103) by Camille Saint-Saëns.
Iruzun’s Brazilian compatriot Henrique Oswald shared a long friendship with Camille Saint-Saëns based on mutual admiration for each other as composers and pianists. They occasionally performed together some of Saint-Saëns’ music for two pianos in public recitals.
Saint-Saëns’ exotic Fifth Piano Concerto, the Egyptian, was composed during a North African holiday in 1896. Combining complex piano writing with a deft lightness of touch, it boasts a lyrical main theme (described by Saint-Saëns as “a Nubian love song”), hypnotic echoes of the gamelan and a finale bursting with virtuosity.
Oswald’s Piano Concerto was composed in Italy a decade before Saint-Saëns’ Egyptian. With bravura passages recalling Saint-Saëns’ Second Piano Concerto, its richly Romantic vein carries allusions to Fauré while brimming with Oswald’s intriguing native Brazilian rhythms.
Like Oswald, Alberto Nepomuceno was a Brazilian who studied in Europe, later succeeding him in a prestigious teaching position in Rio de Janeiro. Modelled on Grieg’s Suite from Holberg’s Time, his Suite Antiga (Suite in the Old Style) combines Baroque style and Romantic attitude with a bewitching savoir faire.
Gavin Dixon’s informative booklet notes trace the revealing connections between all three composers.
Clélia Iruzun’s previous SOMM recording with the RPO and Jac van Steen – Piano Concertos by Albeniz and Mignone (SOMMCD 265) – was nominated for an International Classical Music Award in 2019 and described by Gramophone as “a valuable release… very well recorded”.
A collection of late-Romantic and contemporary works for piano and string quartet from the Americas, Treasures from the New World (SOMMCD 0609), Iruzun’s most recent SOMM release with the Coull Quartet, was hailed by Gramophone as “beautifully paced… a delight, as the disc is as a whole”.
On This Recording
Henrique Oswald: Piano Concerto, Op. 10
- I Allegro (un poco agitato)
- II Adagio
- III Allegro Camille Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5 Egyptian, Op. 103
- I Allegro animato
- II Andante
- III Molto Allegro Alberto Nepomuceno: Suite Antiga, Op. 11
- I Prelude - Allegro commodo
- II Menuet I & II - Allegro con spirito
- III Air - Andante espressivo
- IV Rigaudon - Allegro con brio
“Both concerti are replete with mind-boggling technical hurdles which the formidable Brazilian pianist Clélia Iruzun elegantly tosses off and then balances with passages of exquisite lyricism in a stunning performance that also boasts the solid support of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra superbly led by Dutch maestro Jac Van Steen. The production and engineering are both vintage SOMM. A rare treat – Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomuceno’ four-movement Suite Antiga is included in the album, affording the listener the opportunity to enjoy a 19th century Brazilian take on an 18th Century European Baroque construct played with utmost delicacy by a major pianistic talent.” —Rafael de Acha, Music Notes
“Iruzun captures the very essence of this chameleonic score, and her achievement of a panoply of colours and radiant hues adds mightily to the allure of this compelling performance. Like the Oswald, it brims over with luscious melody. The composer was a superb pianist, and the solo part is well-constructed and demands a formidable technique. This it gets under the capable fingers of Iruzun, with Jac van Steen sensitive to every nuance and inflection along the way. … The recording quality throughout is top notch, and this includes the excellent balance struck between the piano and orchestra. Gavin Dixon’s informative annotations are excellent and informative.” —Stephen Greenbank, MusicWeb International
“You can never have enough of Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, a piece tailor-made to soothe and delight during stressful times. It gets better and better with repeated listenings. … Clélia Iruzun gets the work’s playfulness and charm, knowing exactly when to inject some adrenalin or pull things back. Sample her tenderness in the first movement’s tender second subject, or her pulling the stops out in the development. Saint-Saëns’ slow movement is a treat here, Iruzun’s opening flourish ear-catching, her impersonations of frogs, crickets and Javanese gamelan wholly convincing. … We’re not short of good recordings, but this one is excellent, and Jac van Steen’s Royal Philharmonic provide extrovert support. It’s coupled with two rarities. … An enjoyable anthology.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk