Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3; Triple Concerto

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Satirino
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3; Triple Concerto
PERFORMER: Barry Douglas (piano), Chee-Yun (violin), Andrés Diaz (cello); Camerata Ireland/Barry Douglas
CATALOGUE NO: SR 073

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There are moments in both performances which recall the qualities of Barry Douglas’s fine Emperor Concerto (also on Satirino). There is the same brilliant clarity, power alternating with delicacy and sensuous beauty, and a strong grasp of how striking detail fits into the grand overall scheme. Actually they’re more than ‘moments’: the sense of elevated beauty and keen insight runs through the whole of the slow movement of the C minor Concerto, and just as consistently through the long first movement of the Triple Concerto (soloists and orchestra are beautifully balanced in this recording).

So why not the five-star accolade? Because elsewhere here the engagement seems more purely cerebral. It’s not obligatory to take the first movement of the C minor as a Byronic tragedy in concerto form – there’s so much else one can bring out in this music – but Douglas’s version feels reined in. The finale is likewise neither tragic nor comic – and I’m not convinced by the slight slowing down for the second theme. As for the Triple Concerto, the involvement and insight equally tail off after the first movement – the polonaise finale here seems lacklustre, however well shaped.

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For an enduringly fine C minor Concerto with many of Douglas’s virtues but with more subtle poetry and controlled visceral drama, go to the old Stephen Kovacevich on the Philips Duo label. As for the Triple Concerto, the Zacharias-Hoelscher-Schiff team with Kurt Masur and the Gewandhaus Orchestra on EMI conveys a fine balance: refined strength, not to mention delight, in the joie de vivre of this wonderfully crazy piece.