The emergence of pianist Simon Callaghan on the international music scene in recent years has been a source of particular joy to me.
He is an artist of bold yet unostentatious technique, with plenty of taste and savvy to go with it.
In [a previous issue] I had the pleasure of reviewing Callaghan’s performances of piano concertos by the Englishman Roger Sacherverell Coke, whose music is a particular passion of Callaghan’s. I strongly recommend Callaghan’s YouTube video of Mozart’s 20th Piano Concerto, filmed in May 2016 at England’s Whittington International Music Festival. Callaghan is accompanied by a fine string quartet in a performance that is both subtle and magical, beautifully recorded and photographed. The present CD of Joseph Rheinberger and Bernhard Scholz is not Callaghan’s first recorded encounter with German Romanticism. With cellist Joseph Barralet, he has recorded a beautiful Brahms CD, including Barralet’s wonderful transcription of all 21 Hungarian Dances for cello and piano.
Rheinberger and Scholz both belong to the more conservative side of German Romanticism … Rheinberger wrote wonderfully fluent and idiomatic music for piano … Rheinberger favors highly chordal writing for the solo instrument that blends in with the orchestral textures to create something more like a symphonic argument. Although a musical conservative, Rheinberger’s overall sound here is loaded with beautiful, luminous touches …
Like Rheinberger, [Scholz] composed extensively for organ, but in the piano works here, he gets a particularly lovely sound out of the instrument. The piano concerto is a rambling, agreeable piece, with tunes that are pleasant to hear if not especially distinctive … Scholz’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra is a more conventional showpiece for the soloist, although with plenty of touches of the composer’s endearing quirkiness. The young conductor Ben Gernon provides effective accompaniments throughout the program, particularly in the Rheinberger. Veteran engineer Ben Connellan offers very good sound.
One only can wonder what Simon Callaghan will turn his attention to next. Whatever it is, I’ll bet his performances will be as rapturous as those on the present CD. Highly recommended.