WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Mari Kodama (piano); German SO, Berlin/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2 9955
This disc places Beethoven’s first two piano concertos in their order of composition, which is sensible, since there is a clear growth in invention, structure and scale from the Second to the First. However, Kent Nagano and the pianist Mari Kodama, having decided on the right order, then mischievously do all they can to inflate the Second, and something to diminish the First.
The Second sounds grander, if not greater, than I have ever heard it before, with Nagano attacking the opening tutti as if it is middle period Beethoven in full battle-cry. And Kodama plays on a similar scale.
It is interesting, but not fully convincing, especially not the slashing orchestral accents. After that, I envisaged a huge First Concerto; but here the opening is comparatively tame, lacking in the spacious majesty which the greatest performances have.
The movement is made inordinately long by the use of Beethoven’s third, longest cadenza. There are some beautiful touches in the great slow movement, one of Beethoven’s finest, but so there are in almost every performance of this marvellous work. In the third movement Nagano returns to slasher-mode, with some disagreeable results. The recording is rather unclear in the bass. Michael Tanner