completed his so-called Emperor concerto in 1809, the year
that Napoleon and his armies overtook and occupied Vienna. During
the attacks the composer hid in the cellar with pillows tied to
his head in an effort to shield what remained of his hearing from
the blasts of the rifles and cannons. Certainly no admirer of
Napoleon, the nickname was not the composer’s, rather it was applied
later by the German piano maker and composer Cramer when he remarked
that the magnificent work was "surely the emperor of concertos."
By the time of its debut performance in 1811, Beethoven himself
was unable to perform any longer. It is interesting to note that
this concerto marks the first time in which the composer wrote
out the solo part in its entirety before publication. The important
task of soloist was given to Friederich Schneider, who performed
with the Gewandhaus orchestra of Leipzig.
the risk of sounding unkind, I have no choice but to say that
never in my thirty years of listening to, performing and critiquing
music, have I heard a less impressive performance of a major masterpiece.
There is simply nothing to praise here. Passagework is disjointed
and blurred with notes dropped on the floor like leaves from the
autumn trees. Oksoo Han has no sense of tempo and rhythm whatever,
and thankfully, when she bogs the music down to a grinding halt,
conductor Dmitry Yablonsky saves her by picking things up again
in the orchestra. To be fair, she does pull the second movement
off with at least the right notes, but then again, any twelve-year-old
could play the second movement. Once we get to the rondo, things
go straightaway into the tank with wrong notes, sloppy scales,
out of tempo arpeggios and a halting, hesitant style with enough
emergency maestosi to sink a ship. Add to this a completely negative
sense of tone, line and musicianship; I am left wondering what
she learned from her impressive pedagogy. But then again, anyone
with enough money can rent Carnegie Hall. I know nothing about
Bel Air Music as a record label, but if they are trying to stay
afloat in the industry, this is not the way to do it. There is
simply nothing here to recommend.
Schubert’s "Unfinished" symphony fares considerably
better at the hand of Dmitry Yablonsky and his orchestra. Despite
its incompleteness and as such its ending in the "wrong key"
of E, this is a work that has been a staple since its 1865 debut.
The listener is not left unfulfilled by this work as Schubert
poured into it some of his most sublime melodic invention. It
receives a very fine performance indeed and is the redeeming virtue
of this disc. The Moscow Philharmonic plays with a lilt and airiness
that is somewhat atypical of the Russian orchestras that I have
heard. Their playing is devoid of the often overbearing, excessively
vibrato-laden brass sections, and everything here is played with
a simple elegance. Kudos to the winds for their lovely solo work
in the first movement.
a shame then that this fine symphonic recording is so badly damaged
by a truly inferior soloist. Had we had some better piano playing,
this could be a real winner as this is a fine orchestra and the
conductor has many solid musical and expressive ideas. His approach
to the works is fresh and alive and as such we never get the impression
that he or his musicians are tired of these well-trodden works.
this disc is budget priced, it is certainly not worth the outlay
of cash, but if it is cheap, I can recommend it for the symphony