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Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Youthful Beethoven
Piano Concerto in E Flat, WoO 4 (1785) [36’41”]
Romance cantabile, H13 (1786) [8’27”]
Musik zu einem Ritterballet, WoO 1 (1790-1) [14’51”]
Grigorios Zamparas (piano) (concerto and romance)
Jana Holaskova (flute); Zdenek Skrabal (bassoon) (Ritterballett).
Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra/Jon Ceander Mitchell
rec. 5-7 Feb 2004, Dum Umeni, Zim, Filarmonie Bohuslav Martinů, Czech Republic DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2725 [60’05”]

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These are three juvenile works from a composer who took until his mid-twenties to write very much that is memorable, individual and worthy of opus numbers; no Mendelssohn here. However there is a certain charm present in these works and at times present on these recordings. There are few single discs of these works and as an anthology of unfamiliar pieces this is a good release.

The Piano Concerto in E dates from Beethoven’s fifteenth year and was previously reconstructed from the piano part by Willy Hess (1943). There is a workmanlike version by Eva Ander in DG’s “Complete Beethoven”. The version for this new recording is by the conductor here: Jon Ceander Mitchell. The piece has its good points; notably the jaunty finale but otherwise its small ideas outstay their welcome. I found the fifteen minutes of the slow movement (ten minutes on DG) interminable; not one I’ll return to often.

The Romance is very adequately performed and there are very alternative few versions available. There is a superior version on DG played by the Gallois brothers and Myung Whun Chung piano/conductor. This benefits from being only five as opposed to nine minutes (i.e. less repeats). This however is in a very good five disc set. I have just acquired a single disc released by Felicia Blumental on Brana. (for future review). The present version is in better sound and I’m impressed by the three players working well together. I don’t know of any other concerto with piano, flute and bassoon.

Music from Ritterballet is probably the best piece here. It is certainly pleasant and at times like a Mozart divertimento. However there is a recurrent theme - vaguely similar to “The Foggy Foggy Dew” - which in this recording gets slightly monotonous. The version I have is by the BPO under Karajan - when he was good he was brilliant - which not surprisingly is in a different class altogether.

This CD features good piano playing from Grigorios Zamparas and whilst far from being an essential purchase I enjoyed listening to these early examples of Beethoven’s music. Certainly most fifteen year olds would be delighted to produce these works but I’m unsure if they’d wanted them played two hundred years later! The test is whether they’d be played if they were by Herr Dunsmore. I guess the answer for the first two pieces is Nein!

David R Dunsmore





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