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

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat
PERFORMER: Jos van Immerseel (fortepiano); Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: SK 68250
Following their invigorating Haydn symphony releases last year, Bruno Weil and the Canadian period instrument band Tafelmusik now turn their attention to the not dissimilar world of early Beethoven and prove themselves every bit as attuned to its beguiling warmth, wit and wisdom. Unlike many early-music specialists, Weil thinks big: he shapes this music in long paragraphs rather than clipped pseudo-Baroque gestures, yet still allows time for us to relish some outstanding instrumental playing, especially from the woodwind.

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Jos van Immerseel proves an apt and responsive partner, alleviating any initial discomfort at the bright, slightly tinny sound of his copy of a late 18th-century Hammerflügel by his crisp articulation and a fine feeling for his role within Beethoven’s often melt-in-the-mouth orchestral textures – admirably caught by the Sony engineers. Perhaps van Immerseel’s most singular achievement is the inventiveness of his allegedly improvised cadenzas, combining an impeccable sense of period style, an integrity of purpose and a touch of the fanciful.

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If the Second Concerto seems a shade routine in comparison, that’s probably the fault of the work itself rather than the performance – despite the continuing controversy as to its dating, it sounds the less mature. But the outstanding account of the First Concerto more than compensates. Antony Bye