Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Rondo in B flat, WoO 6

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Rondo in B flat, WoO 6
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano); Swedish CO/Thomas Dausgaard
The lessons of period performance have been taken on board to a greater or lesser extent by all younger performers nowadays, but Dausgaard and his band are plainly total converts. Right from the beginning of the First Concerto, the wiry string sound with lean vibrato, the characterful unhomogenised wind, and the pinging timps are much closer to John Eliot Gardiner than Otto Klemperer. With its crisp attack, tight rhythms and detached phrasing, this opening orchestral tutti does exactly what it’s supposed to: screw up the tension for the appearance of the soloist. But Berezovsky’s entrance comes as quite a shock. For a start, the sound of his modern piano contradicts what we’ve heard up to that point, and his articulation doesn’t have the same knife-edge precision. The sad thing is that it’s not flabby playing by any means: in different orchestral company I might be praising its rhythmic control, its nimble fingerwork and its sense of balance. There’s more evidence of common purpose in the Second Concerto, where Berezovsky finds a harder edge to his sound, and projects it more effectively. Curiously, this has the effect of making this Concerto the bigger of the two: the choice of the short cadenza in the first movement of the First Concerto has already pointed in this direction. Comparisons have to be with recordings on original instruments, and unless you’re allergic to the sound of old pianos, the benchmark is Robert Levin, inventive, imaginative and, most importantly, at one mind with his conductor. Martin Cotton