Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: The Beethoven Journey
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano & direction)
CATALOGUE NO: 88883705482

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This second instalment of Leif Ove Andsnes’s ‘Beethoven Journey’ is no less successful than its predecessor, in which he gave admirable performances of the First and Third Piano Concertos. Particularly beautiful here is the Fourth, whose first movement has a real feel of chamber music about it. Beethoven provides some genuine chamber music in the finale, where the soloist’s initial entry is accompanied by a single cello. Andsnes takes it at a leisurely pace, relaxing further for the more expressive moments.

He takes an altogether Classical view of the Piano Concerto No. 2, a piece that belongs to the 18th century rather than the 19th. But Beethoven wrote its cadenza more than a decade after the event, and it belongs to a quite different world. It’s not quite as off-the-wall as the outrageously long cadenza Beethoven wrote around the same time for his First Concerto, but it’s still a grandiose piece, beginning with a passage in mock-pompous fugal style, and it sounds a touch refined in Andsnes’s hands. That is a small point in what is an effortlessly musical performance, helped by the immaculate playing of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. And, as in the first disc of this series, Andsnes’s attention to orchestral detail while conducting from the keyboard is praiseworthy. Whether he next intends to couple the Emperor Concerto with the Triple Concerto, or with Beethoven’s curious keyboard transcription of his Violin Concerto, remains to be seen.

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Misha Donat