One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 3 [38:16]
Piano Concerto No. 4 [35:01]
Maria João Pires (piano)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding
rec. Berwaldhalle, Stockholm, 9-11 October 2013
ONYX 4125 [71:30]

When you see Maria João Pires perform it is astonishing to think that she has reached her 70th birthday, so sprightly and constantly questioning is her playing. It is every bit as astonishing to think that this is her first disc of Beethoven concertos. Better late than never, though, and I hope that this is only the first such disc of many.

Knowing what I do of Pires’ playing style, and having been lucky enough to see her in the flesh a few times with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, I was expecting that the fourth concerto would suit her most closely, its rich vein of lyricism perfectly matched to her delicate approach at the keyboard. To my surprise, I found the third concerto much more compelling. There’s nothing wrong with No. 4 and the delicacy of Pires’ approach pays dividends, particularly in the first movement, which combines architectural scale with plenty of subtle insights. It’s Harding who comes off better, though, with some carefully observed shading of the orchestral picture, especially evident in the abruptness of the strings at the start of the slow movement, or the bristling sense of fun in the finale. Pires’ fingers caress the keys gently in the first movement and dance over them playfully in the finale, turning her style to suit every phrase and mood.

The third concerto comes off even better, though. For one thing, it has a fantastically lithe sound that makes its C minor world appear even more threatening than usual. The strings sound thin but insistent in that opening motif — Harding has clearly been listening to his “period” colleagues. There are plenty of touches in the orchestral sound, such as the plangent bassoon and edgy oboes, that add fantastic flashes of colour at every opportunity. Harding’s control over the orchestra is agile and impressive so that, when Pires enters, she doesn’t so much pour oil on troubled waters as jump in at the deep end and move the drama up a notch. It’s an incredibly impressive performance, like observing two sparring partners, and the same is true of the rambunctious finale, whose wind flickers in the coda sound fantastically cheeky. In contrast, the central Largo can rarely have been so peaceful and contemplative, a beautiful meditation characterised by warm, mellifluous sound and playing of utterly seamless legato from both piano and orchestra. This disc was both exhilarating and enlightening to listen to. Let’s hope there is more on the way.

Simon Thompson
 
Previous review: John Quinn

Masterwork Index: Concerto 3 ~~ Concerto 4