ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven: Triple Concerto
WORKS: Triple Concerto; The Creatures of Prometheus Overture; Egmont Overture; Coriolan Overture
PERFORMER: Giuliano Carmignola (violin), Sol Gabetta (cello), Dejan Lazic´ (piano); Kammerorchester Basel/ Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: 88883763622
Masterwork or monsterpiece? Too often Beethoven’s Triple Concerto comes across as a fitfully inspired behemoth – the one point in his concerto-composing career where he seems to wobble titanically off course. It’s also a nightmare to record, so full praise to the Sony production team for finding such a convincing balance, not just between soloists and orchestra, but between the soloists themselves. It all sounds wonderfully fresh and clear.
So too does the performance. The Triple Concerto’s eccentricities are joyously celebrated, which means that the masterstrokes also tell as they rarely do. The first movement in particular grips one’s attention and draws the ear into countless delightful details. How is that so much of this so often gets missed? It isn’t just the élan and lively intelligence that impress: I’ve rarely heard such a roundly enjoyable performance of the brief slow movement, which for once sounded neither perfunctory nor too short. Perhaps the Polonaise finale could have a little more swagger, but there’s plenty of humour to compensate. A few tiny oddities – like the weirdly swanee-whistle-like flute in the first movement – are easily overlooked.
There’s a similar exuberant clarity about the overtures, but at times the period-style crispness and metronomic objectivity turn even Egmont and Coriolan into something closer to a military cross-country run than a tragic theatrical prelude. In Egmont I really missed the transition, or rather lurch from grim Allegro to deliriously excited coda. The Creatures of Prometheus is more fun, as it should be. Even so, I don’t think it will convert those who find Beethoven relentless. Stephen Johnson