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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op. 37 (1800) [36:27]
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2/1 (1795) [22:00]
Alexej Gorlatch (piano)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Sebastian Tewinkel
rec. live, 11 September 2011, final of ARD International Music Competition, Philharmonie, Munich, Germany (Concerto); 12-13 October 2011, Bavaria Music Studios, Munich, Germany (Sonata).
BR KLASSIK 900115 [58:30]

This release features the playing of young pianist Alexej Gorlatch. Born in 1988 at Kiev in the Ukraine he has lived in Germany since the age of three. He has won several competitions but none more prestigious than first prize at the ARD International Music Competition in 2011, the year of the 60th anniversary of the event; in addition he also took the audience prize. This Munich competition has been the springboard for numerous music careers including those of Jessye Norman, Anne-Sofie von Otter, Thomas Quasthoff, Mitsuko Uchida and Yuri Bashmet. For the ARD competition finals, broadcast by BR Klassik Radio, Gorlatch elected to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor and this is the live recording of his performance.
 
Beethoven was himself the soloist for the premiere of Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor in Vienna in 1803. This was a remarkable all-Beethoven concert including the premières of both the Symphony No. 2 and oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. Gorlatch regards the C minor score as one of the finest works ever written and I cannot imagine too many people disputing his claim. Right from the orchestral introduction I was stuck by the highly exuberant playing of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under its German conductor. I attended one of the Bavarian orchestra’s concerts a few days ago at this very same concert hall and they are a quite outstanding group of players. Within the considerable dimensions of the lengthy opening movement an absorbing sense of ebullience is tempered by the somewhat mysterious character that Gorlatch adeptly uncovers in the piano part. Any initial stiffness created by nerves soon disappears as he loosens up to perform with vibrant expression in an interpretation that feels crisp and fresh. Right from the opening bars of the E major Largo one senses the noble character of the writing. It is played with calm assurance by Gorlatch to which everything appears so natural. He reveals an undercurrent of deep isolation in the writing. Vivaciously performed the exhilarating Rondo, Finale is marked by rapid-fire playing of the rising arpeggios. A sneeze at 1:03 was rather annoying but this is a single concert live recording after all.
 
For this debut release Gorlatch has also chosen to include Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2/1. Composed in 1795 this is the very first of the official thirty-two piano sonatas that Beethoven wrote over a twenty-seven year period. A frequent choice by up and coming pianists the F minor score is anything but easy. Fluidity and crisp articulation marks the playing here. I love the way Gorlatch impressively controls the sharp shifts of dynamic in the opening Allegro. His glorious introspection and repose in the Adagio is tinged with deep melancholy. Played with understated elegance the quasi-Menuetto acts as a charming preamble to the daringly tempestuous Finale with its relentless lively runs.
 
These are riveting Beethoven performances from a player who with remarkable musicality demonstrates that he can play with both terrific flair and vibrancy together with palpable sensitivity. All in all this disc make for an impressive first look at a remarkably talented performer.
 
Michael Cookson