Beethoven/Bach

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven/Bach
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto in D (arr. from the Violin Concerto); Concerto in D, BWV 1054 (arr. from Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042)
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano)Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/ Jukka-Pekka Saraste
CATALOGUE NO: 443 118-2 DDD
The D major Piano Concerto, loudly trumpeted on the ASV disc as Beethoven’s sixth, is actually his arrangement of the Violin Concerto, hastily cobbled together to honour a publishing contract with Clementi. Its chief interest lies in the cadenzas Beethoven provided for it – particularly since he failed to write any for the violin version. The largest of them, for the first movement, is a piece in outrageously bad taste, complete with a lively march which includes a part for timpani – an idea Beethoven remembered in the finale of the Emperor Concerto.

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Whatever the shortcomings of Olli Mustonen’s characteristically quirky performance (further hampered by a lean-sounding orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s unidiomatic conducting), at least he plays the cadenzas with virtuosity. This is more than can be said for Pietro Spada, who plods his way through the music like some earnest Grade 8 student. As for his account of the early B flat major Rondo, it is lethargic beyond belief: even the Presto coda is taken at the same sluggish tempo as the rest.

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Mustonen’s companion-piece neatly completes a disc of famous violin concertos in unfamiliar guise. His performance of Bach’s keyboard version of the E major Concerto is enjoyable, though his somewhat spasmodic style remains an acquired taste. Misha Donat