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Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 - The Scotsman


11 May 2009
The Scotsman
Kenneth Walton
5 Stars

What makes this trilogy so impressive is the fact it was never originally meant to be a trilogy. Pianist Artur Pizarro, Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestras were booked last year to record only Nos 3 and 4, which they performed live in the orchestra's main season. Committing them to disc in record time, the team was left with a day's recording time left over. Someone suggested adding No5, "the Emperor", the parts were rushed to Perth Concert Hall, and CD2 of this set was the result.

The performances' freshness should therefore hardly come as a surprise. Pizarro brings the same alacrity and individuality to every one of these works as he did on the stage. The Third Concerto is delivered with delicate precision, in addition to which Pizarro paints its overriding mellifluous quality with sensitivity of tone, and in the pensive slow movement a sense of mystery.

A similarly muted and probing questioning - the deliberate spreading of the first chord - permeates the Fourth.

But these are not performances lacking in explosive voltage, as Pizarro's lightening dexterity in "the Emperor" proves conclusively. He holds back on the fireworks simply to explore the great beauty in these works. With Mackerras and the SCO providing utterly sympathetic support, the overall impression is of unanimous intention and glorious teamwork. And to think they were all but sight-reading.


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Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5