This exciting disc features the brilliant playing of the Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski in some hair-raising readings of the wonderful (and hugely difficult) Bagatelles coupled with a barnstorming version of the First Piano Concerto which rather reminds me of Barenboim in his early years.
Anderszewski brings a reflective beauty to the Bagatelles, especially the 1st and 3rd which contain music of astonishing originality, as we can expect in Beethoven's later years. These pieces are rather overlooked at times but there is an intensity about them which is apparent immediately, rather reminiscent of the final three piano sonatas.
The First Piano Concerto dates back to Beethoven's early years and although it is actually his second in order of composition, is still a very fine and dashing work. Its opening orchestral introduction is one of my favourites and here Anderszewski and the Bremen players catch that feel wonderfully. At times, the pianist plays with a slightly devil may care attitude but in Beethoven, this is never amiss and adds to the excitement of the occasion, especially in the "martial" Finale.
Virgin's recording is clean and clear with an excellent balance achieved between soloist and orchestra whilst the piano sound in the Bagatelles is also very fine. My only gripe is with the cover which is just the usual portrait of the artists, something which irks me when some painting or more imaginative design could have been used. Otherwise, this is a top-notch issue and I look forward to further Beethoven from this admirable source.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech