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BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2    Lars Vogt & City of Birmingham Orchestra/Rattle   EMI Classics CDC 556266 2 2 [66'12" & 34'42"]

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These interesting and highly recommendable accounts of the (actual) first of Beethoven's piano concertos, No. 2, and its successor, No.1, have a freshness together with comfortable rapport between conductor and soloist, one of the most individual and thoughtful of young piano virtuosos. The balance between solo and orchestra is finely judged, and the piano playing has a light, airy quality that is particularly winning. The recording was made in the University of Warwick's Butterworth Hall and the recording quality is first rate. (No comparison with the multitude of alternative recordings is attempted here.)

The presentation is unusual, with a bonus CD of the C major concerto with Glenn Gould's cadenzas instead of Beethoven's. own. Gould's approach to this task is described in Oliver Buslau's liner notes, and also in a note by Glen Gould himself (1955) in which he explains his desire to sustain the formal line of the movements with an organic expansion of the material, rather than a 'rhapsodic digression'. He developed the motives with a chromatic style more intense than early Beethoven, that for the finale as 'a dynamic decrescendo'.

The arrangement gives you a straight choice to play the whole concerto with one or other set of cadenzas - it might have been preferable to keep the two together, indexing the cadenzas as separate tracks, though that would have necessitated brief gaps for one or other version. For those who wish to make straight comparisons for study purposes, the first movement cadenza occurs at 12'23" and the last one at 6'00". The Gould cadenza is 3 minutes shorter than Beethoven's (the longest in all his concertos) in the first movement, and half a minute longer in the last. My impression is that the music with orchestra is the same performance, just digitally spliced differently. (The slow movement has the identical duration 10'45".) It is characteristic of Lars Vogt's thoughtful approach to the piano repertoire that he sought out those cadenzas and persuaded EMI to let him record them.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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