Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 - BBC Music Magazine

These performances, made in Perth (Scotland) Town Hall last November, strike me as attractive but under-characterised. Take the opening movement of the Third Concerto, one of Beethoven's great C minor movements. It is marked ‘Allegro con brio', but with its obvious indebtedness to Mozart's concerto in the same key, K491, it needs to be both menacing and stealthy, and, a little later, fierce. Nothing that Mackerras conducts ever sounds placid, but this does come dangerously close to that. And while Artur Pizarro makes a fine partner for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, he does seem to want to keep things on a conversational rather than combative level. This works far better in the sublime slow movement, which floats serenely past precisely as it should. The last movement is playful and full of suprises, but again I would have expected more asperity from the orchestra.

The Fourth Concertos, that elusive, quietly intense work, again sounds a little workaday. The first movement's second subject, which should have an underlying tragic quality, is deprived of any ambiguity. The orchestra is not aggressive enough in the slow movement, so it's easily tamed by the soloist. It's in the Emperor Concerto that everyone seems to enjoy themselves most, though I could do with more muscle power for the last movement than Pizarro commands. Throughout, the recorded sound is ideal.

14 April 2009