Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt (piano); CBSO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56266 2
Though Beethoven’s early piano concertos (No. 2 was actually composed before No. 1) are rightly perceived as drawing on Mozartian models, the breadth of their slow movements and the characteristically scherzo-like vigour of their finales announce the arrival of a new and original musical voice. These performances combine an awareness of their Classical background with a careful attention to those idiosyncratic features that establish Beethoven’s genuine novelty of manner.

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Soloist and conductor are well matched in their approach. Vogt’s finely articulated, purposefully shaped pianism strikes a nice balance between clean-edged Classicism and proto-Romantic feeling, while the CBSO’s brisk, pointed phrasing and uncluttered textures suggest that its Beethoven playing has benefited considerably from Rattle’s work with period-instrument forces.

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The first of the two CDs offers performances of both concertos with Beethoven’s own cadenzas. The second, bonus disc repeats the First Concerto, incorporating cadenzas written by Glenn Gould for his own use in 1954. Grand and fantastic in conception, they treat Beethoven’s thematic material with an imaginative freedom that borders on the wilful in its refusal to blend in with its harmonic surround. George Hall