Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor)
PERFORMER: Gerhard Oppitz (piano); Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68417 2
On the credit side, Gerhard Oppitz is technically a fine player. Countless flawlessly executed runs testify to technique both well-drilled in practice and tightly reined and controlled in performance. He is always muscular and never do we feel the want of an ounce of beef in Beethoven’s more vigorous passages.

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But the latter strength is also his chief weakness, and is made apparent early on. The first bar of the Fourth Concerto is marked ‘dolce’, but Oppitz produces something that, while quiet, falls some way short of sweetness. Other appeals to the soloist’s sensitivity are similarly wasted. Beethoven’s molto espressivo markings in the same movement might as well be in ancient Greek as Oppitz ploughs on with as little heed as a joyrider approaching a give-way sign. The most acute example is the whole of the Andante con moto, where Janowski’s depth of feeling fails to summon any echo from the soloist, rather like an emotional Russian grand master pitted against a chess computer.

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In the Emperor Concerto, Oppitz reveals the extent of his gift with some dazzling passagework, while Janowski and the orchestra remain precise and responsive, but the whole disc is desperately short on inner quality. Christopher Wood