- Piano Concerto, for piano & orchestra with male chorus in C major, Op. 39, KiV 247
Ferruccio Busoni's "Piano Concerto" is an extreme work, the longest piano concerto in common circulation at about 75 minutes, with a punishing piano part and a finale that includes a male chorus inexplicably singing a German-language hymn to Allah taken from a Danish play about Aladdin's lamp. There's an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality about this gigantic work, with the third movement sounding something like what might have happened if Wagner had written a piano concerto, and cheery Italian dances mingling with the most weighty material elsehwere. The work deserves to be better known than it is, if only for its audacity in setting itself the hopeless task of reconciling German and Italian music. Most of the recordings of the work have come from modern virtuosos who can really lay into the piano part: Marc-André Hamelin's reading with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is one to try. The all-Italian forces here, led by pianist Roberto Cappello with the Corale Luca Marenzio and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco La Vecchia, are not quite in that league, but neither is the price of this Naxos release, and it's good to have a competent available version at a budget price point. There are nice spots in Cappello's version, including the rather demonic "Pezzo Giocoso" second movement, an oversized scherzo. The biggest problem is the sound, which tends to swallow Cappello up when there is much else going on; on a recording of this work the engineer is almost as important a soloist as the pianist. But the performance puts the essential ambitiousness and grandiloquence of this unique work across.