Beethoven, Sibelius

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COMPOSERS: BeethovenSibelius
ALBUM TITLE: BeethovenSibelius
WORKS: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3; Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Glenn Gould (piano); Berlin PO/Herbert von Karajan (Live recording, 26 May 1957)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697287822


Plainly the point of greatest interest in this 1957 concert is the Concerto, with the interaction of the spiky Glenn Gould and the opulent conducting style of Herbert von Karajan. In fact, after an opening tutti, which has homogeneity of sound and attention to balance, without the over-ripeness which characterised Karajan’s later work – Gould’s entry isn’t at all shocking. There’s a more gentle approach than in his slightly later studio recording with Bernstein, with less of a propensity towards detached articulation. And there’s less of the humming and singing which are hallmarks of almost all of Gould’s recordings – even in the cadenza, where you might expect it most. In the slow movement, Gould takes an almost Mozartean view, with great clarity of texture – it’s here that he’s most at odds with Karajan’s desire for a slower tempo and more Romantic approach. In the finale there’s a nicely dancing quality, and an overall lightness from both pianist and orchestra. The Sibelius was a firm part of Karajan’s repertoire by 1957, and this performance has a confident direction, with the gradual speeding up in the first movement well paced, despite the odd orchestral imprecision. In the more heavily scored music, the dry mono sound isn’t quite as good as in the Beethoven, which robs the finale of the power that’s undoubtedly in the performance. A historical curiosity, principally for Gould and Karajan fans. Martin Cotton