Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano); Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Kurt Sanderling
These are large-scale performances with a large modern orchestra (huge, Bruckner-size kettledrums, etc) and they are very successful. I found the first movement of No. 3 a little heavy and the piano sound occasionally slightly muddy (too much pedal, perhaps – Beethoven’s pedal marks sometimes translate badly on a modern piano). The acoustics of No. 3 are very spacious and I would love to have known what piano was being used. The slow movement I found much too slow, however: it is Largo in 3/8 and sounds like Adagio in 3/4. But the orchestral playing is very good and there is a real difference, especially in the opening movement, between forte and fortissimo. This is especially obvious at the end of the first tutti, where the last four notes are fortissimo coming from forte. Concerto No. 4 comes from a live performance and is much more successful: the balance between soloist and orchestra is better and altogether you could not wish for a finer, more intelligent reading. For those readers who do not yet own these essential core repertoire works, I would suggest waiting a little: two performances on the fortepiano are en route and may be more to the taste of some listeners. HC Robbins Landon