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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.2, Op.19 (1792-8) [33:53]
Piano Concerto No.3, Op.37 (1800-03) [40:11]
Margarita Höhenrieder (piano)
Kammerphilharmonie Amadé (2)
Würtemburgisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn (3)
Leon Fleisher (conductor)
rec. 9 September 2014, Zeche Zollverein Essen (2), 14 October 2015, Max-Littmann-Saal, Bad Kissingen (3)
Bonus Material: In Rehearsal – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3
16:9 NTSC; PCM Stereo/Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS 5.1; Region Code 0

Known for her Beethoven, Margarita Höhenrieder is more of a musician’s musician than an international superstar, though she has appeared on most of the great podia and worked with conductors such as Abbado, Chailly, Maazel and others. This very nicely produced pair of recordings of Beethoven piano concertos sees her reunited with her former teacher Leon Fleisher, and the results are fine indeed.

Each performance is preceded by a mini scene-setting introduction of the concert venue. Created in the coal mining area of the Ruhr, Zeche Zollverein in Essen has an industrial appearance, and the spacious acoustic of the hall allows for quite an expansive performance, even given the chamber-orchestra size of the accompaniment. I relish big acoustics, and the recording here manages the balance between detail and resonance very well. Camerawork is tastefully done, with views of Fleisher’s restrained style, most of the orchestra and the soloist from every useful angle. The performance is excellent, and the sustained quality of that central Adagio has plenty of magic.

With the Third Piano Concerto we move to the more conventional acoustic of Max-Littmann-Saal, Bad Kissingen and the equally attentive and musically astute Würtemburgisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn. I don’t find this quite as involving as the Op. 19 performance, the sustained take on the opening movement lacking some of the con brio bounce the score seems to demand, especially in this less generous acoustic. The film director seems not to fancy the first flute player as she is studiously avoided throughout the big solo at the beginning of the central Largo, but the orchestra plays with warm expressiveness throughout. This has modern instruments, but with hard sticks used for the timpani and a valve-free trumpet there is also a frisson of historical authenticity to add colour to the whole.

The bonus track shows some clips of the musicians in rehearsal in Bad Kissingen with Margarita Höhenrieder providing some background in German but with subtitles. Fleisher knows these pieces from the inside out and also brings some valuable insights into his approach: “the best way to learn is by teaching, because gifted people ask questions [and are] skeptical…” These are the kind of performances that take nothing for granted, and while there is plenty of professionalism on show there is also enjoyment in the music – not of the effusive, superficial kind, but that variety which has an ice-berg like extension beneath the notes on the score. While perhaps not an essential purchase, this is a very enjoyable DVD recording of two fine concertos and certainly a nice thing to have around.

Dominy Clements



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