Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor; in E flat, WoO 4
Boris Giltburg (piano); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Naxos 8.574153 62:40 mins
Playing a bright-toned Fazioli grand with steely authority and luminous tenderness, Boris Giltburg gives a fine account of the Emperor Concerto which honours Beethoven’s markings plus the many additional traditions of rubato and tempo modification accumulated in the work’s performance history. Vasily Petrenko draws playing of comparable force and gentleness from the RLPO in a full-bodied Philharmonic Hall recording. In short, a reliable, inexpensive, straight-down-the-middle modern-instrument account without interpretative eccentricities.
Also included is one of Beethoven’s very earliest efforts – a lengthy piano concerto, also in E flat, completed at 14 and eventually catalogued as WoO 4. The full score is lost, but Beethoven’s manuscript of the solo part survives including reductions of the tutti passages. Editions have appeared with conjectural orchestrations, but Giltburg has preferred to play the piano score as Beethoven left it as a kind of concerto-sonata. It proves no masterpiece, combining much florid writing to show off piano technique with reluctance to stray far from the home key. Yet the ‘kiddies-game’ main theme of its finale sticks in the mind and later there is an attempt at gypsy (or maybe Beethoven thought of it as ‘Turkish’) style that points forward.