Beethoven, Schumann: Triple Concerto; Piano Concerto in A minor

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Schumann
WORKS: Triple Concerto; Piano Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich (piano), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Mischa Maisky (cello); Svizzera Italiana Orchestra/Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57773 2
I’ve never understood why Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is so often dismissed as being unworthy of him. It’s true that its melodic invention isn’t always of the highest order, but it’s full of breathtakingly original strokes of genius: the quiet beginning for cellos and basses alone, for instance; the first entry of the cello soloist, accompanied by a pulsating dissonance; the manner in which the cello seizes the melodic initiative from the orchestral strings near the start of the slow movement; or the sudden change in tonal direction from C major to E major for the second half of the finale’s rondo theme. It’s a little unfortunate for the Eroica Trio that EMI has seen fit to issue its recording of the Triple Concerto simultaneously with a rather more glitzy performance from last year’s Lugano Festival. Not that the Eroica players can’t hold their own against the likes of Martha Argerich and Mischa Maisky: theirs is an affectionate account, admirably supported by the Prague Chamber Orchestra, and it makes for enjoyable listening. Only the finale’s splendid central episode – the apotheosis of the polonaise – finds them indulging in slightly self-conscious rubato. But in the end, the stronger personalities of their more illustrious rivals produce a performance that’s a touch more compelling. Argerich, Capuçon and Maisky are occasionally prone to exaggerated point-making (the quiet, chirping lead-in to the reprise of the finale’s theme, for example, is far too ostentatious each time it occurs), but their music-making has an intensity and spontaneity of a kind that only a live performance can bring. For a more aristocratic account there’s always the classic version by the dream-team of Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Richter with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, but this finely recorded newcomer shouldn’t be missed. As a companion-piece to the Concerto, the Eroica Trio offers a decent account of Beethoven’s Op. 11 Trio (originally with clarinet), while the Lugano Festival disc has Argerich in a splendidly impulsive reading of the Schumann Piano Concerto. It’s a spellbinding performance, and generally preferable in its Romantic ardour to Argerich’s previous recording with Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Teldec). Misha Donat