Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat (Emperor); Choral Fantasy in C minor (with improvisations)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat (Emperor); Choral Fantasy in C minor (with improvisations)
PERFORMER: Robert Levin (fortepiano); Vocal soloists; Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 447 771-2
The period-instrument movement has arguably thrown up no more persuasive advocates than Gardiner and the lesser-known Levin, as this release amply demonstrates. If Levin is less convincing here than his colleagues, the fault, if any, lies largely with his instrument, rather than with him. While a compelling case can be made for the use of the fortepiano in Mozart’s concertos, its virtues over the modern piano are far less evident in the later part of Beethoven’s output. For a start, Beethoven increasingly wrote ahead of his time and beyond the instruments of his day. ‘What do I care for your miserable fiddle,’ he growled at the violinist Schuppanzigh, ‘when the spirit moves me.’


Still, if you must have the older instrument, you won’t find better accounts than these. Lively (sometimes almost to a fault), acutely communicative and undogmatically stylish, they have a sense of spontaneity and relish which is positively contagious. An added bonus is the inclusion of two alternative improvisations, by Levin himself, as curtain-raisers to the Choral Fantasy. Jeremy Siepmann