Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C; Romance in G, Op. 40; Romance in F, Op. 50; Romance cantabile

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Triple Concerto in C; Romance in G, Op. 40; Romance in F, Op. 50; Romance cantabile
PERFORMER: Kyung-Wha Chung (violin), Myung-Wha Chung (cello), Patrick Gallois (flute), Pascal Gallois (bassoon); Philharmonia Orchestra/Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 453 488-2
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, completed about the same time as the Eroica Symphony, has suddenly become popular. One reason for its previous lack of popularity was the fact that three soloists cost three times as much as one normally expensive pianist, violinist or cellist. Another reason is that the work seeks to be a popular success, hence the Rondo alla Polacca with which it concludes. The piano part was intended for Beethoven’s patron and pupil, the Archduke Rudolph von Habsburg, and hence is less technically demanding than the composer’s usual pianistic writing, destined for himself.

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The standard CD (previously LP) of the work was a spectacular performance and recording made by EMI many years ago with David Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Richter with the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan. It was opulently played with the BPO’s luscious sound, but has little to do with what Beethoven would have heard in 1804. Another choice was the version of Stern, Rose and Serkin (Sony), less lush and not so high-powered as Karajan’s.

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At any rate, the new DG recording, while not giving a lot of value for money, is an eminently civilised and nicely scaled reading of the Concerto and gives us the two delightful Romances for violin and orchestra composed for Ignaz Schuppanzigh who performed them in the Theater an der Wien, one in 1798, one slightly later, as well as a Romance cantabile for piano, flute, bassoon and small orchestra, composed in Bonn. HC Robbins Landon