Beethoven : Piano Concerto No 4
These are superlative performances of these extremely familiar works, though it isn’t easy to say exactly why they are so fine. They are not wildly idiosyncratic. Till Fellner, a pianist I have admired in everything that I have heard him do, in concert or on record, is not in the least a showman or someone with a strongly projected personality, yet in collaboration with the inspiring Kent Nagano he has achieved something remarkable.
In a note in the booklet, which unusually is not only about the works but also a little about these performances, Paul Griffiths writes about the way in which, in these concertos, the orchestra doesn’t address us, as it does in the symphonies, but rather it and the soloist address one another, and we witness the ensuing drama. The give and take between Fellner and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra is uncanny, in that they seem to be questioning or replying to one another as if only two individuals were concerned.
That is not so surprising in the Fourth Concerto, which is intimate, even though the slow movement suggests a quarrel between two very close partners. It is much more surprising in the Fifth Concerto, which one thinks of as a grand work in which the orchestra provides, mainly, an immense frame for the soloist to exhibit his moods and his grandeur. Yet in this performance once more there is a feeling of the orchestra as a unity debating with the pianist, or provoking him, or being teased by him.
I really had wondered whether there was anything new that any team could say about these works, but listening to them in ECM’s rich recording has shown me that there is plenty. Michael Tanner