Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C; Choral Fantasy; Rondo in B flat, Wo0 6

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Triple Concerto in C; Choral Fantasy; Rondo in B flat, Wo0 6
PERFORMER: Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Thomas Zehetmair (violin), Clemens Hagen (cello); Arnold Schoenberg Choir, COE/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-60602-2
It’s good to have two of Beethoven’s seriously undervalued C major works on the same disc and in such fine performances. The line-up of soloists in the Triple Concerto is impressive, with Clemens Hagen particularly eloquent in the demanding cello part. Nikolaus Harnoncourt takes a broad, almost restrained view of the opening movement, allowing its lyrical qualities to make their full mark. On the other hand, his finale is unusually brisk, and in the swaggering minor-mode polonaise at its centre he finds he needs to hold the music back in order to allow it due weight. The resulting tempo fluctuations verge on caricature, and on the whole I prefer the straighter approach adopted in the famous recording by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, which maintains the same slightly slower pulse throughout. Karajan also finds greater serenity in the slow movement, and his team of soloists – Richter, Oistrakh and Rostropovich – plays with wonderful poise and elegance. All the same, this new recording, with a more lithe contribution from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, runs that classic version a close second. The Choral Fantasy – that precursor of the Choral Symphony’s finale which manages to fuse concerto, variation and symphonic forms into a pot-boiler of genius – benefits greatly from the imaginative playing of Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who also savours the playful nature of the early Rondo for piano and orchestra (in all likelihood Beethoven’s rejected finale for his Piano Concerto No. 2). The recorded sound is first-class. Misha Donat