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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concertos

  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #1, Op. 15
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #2, Op. 19
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #3, Op. 37
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #4, Op. 58
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #5, Op. 73 "Emperor"
  • Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello & Orchestra "Triple" Op. 56 *
Christian Zacharias, piano
Staatskapelle Dresden/Hans Vonk & Kurt Masur
* Heinrich Schiff, cello
* Ulf Hoelscher, violin
* Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig/Kurt Masur
EMI 63937 3CDs About 3-1/2 hours
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan
Available Separately:
Concertos #4 & 5 - EMI 74721
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

Concerto #3 & Triple Concerto - EMI 74722
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

Can there be a new and exciting way to present these popular piano concertos, one that is not precious, bombastic, or utterly earthshaking? I believe there is. If Wilhelm Kempff and Arthur Schnabel can do it, so can some of today's Young Turks. Now we have the winning ensembles of Zacharias and Vonk, Zacharias and Masur.

I gave this set the Emperor Concerto test. If the performance can tell me something new about this near-warhorse, then you should buy it. Happy to report, it did. Zacharias performs this and the other four concertos with restraint when needed, tenderness and furor when indicated, and subtlety above the call of duty. In the first movement of the Emperor, for example, he respects Beethoven's abrupt and persnickety changes in volume and tempo, by not drawing attention to them. Hampered by the standard issue Steinway, he manages to leap along with conductors Vonk and Masur, never grandstanding, simply doing the work he is paid to and doing it well.

As an extra bonus, EMI has included the Triple Concerto, which is also performed with a furious range of feeling. Even Heinrich Schiff, God bless him, reins in his muscles and presents cello playing the finest since his Bach Cello suites. This is a disc you'll want to own and show off to your friends.

Copyright © 1996, Peter Bates