Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beethoven - The 5 Piano Concertos - Brendel,Rattle,Wiener Philharmoniker

 

 

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What can Alfred Brendel possibly find in recording the Beethoven Concertos for the fourth time? For one thing, Simon Rattle and his characterful Viennese musicians provide a leaner, less monumental orchestral framework than James Levine and the Chicago Symphony did for Brendel in 1983 (let's not speak of Haitink's neutral backing for the pianist's seventies cycle!) Brendel downplays the Second Concerto's zippy humor this time, and belabors the finale's second subject with annoying point making. Conversely, he has simplified his approach to the Fourth Concerto's lyric embroidery, yet appropriately lets go in the rarely played alternate cadenza (the same used by Gieseking and Gilels). Brendel's hard won technique is now pushed a bit in the outer movements of the "Emperor" and C Major concerto, but brings a more colorful, internalized response to their central slow movements. Everything comes together in the Third Concerto, which, on balance, is the finest and most organically flowing of Brendel's four recorded versions. No modern-day Beethoven concerto sets quite surpass the brash angularity and spirited conductor/soloist give-and-take that distinguish the famous Fleisher/Szell/Cleveland cycle. But the Brendel/Rattle team have the sonic advantage, and William Kinderman's provocative notes shed further insight on both the music and the performers.—Jed Distler

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