Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 - Sunday Herald

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras follow their award-winning recordings of Mozart symphonies with this new double-CD release from Linn Records of Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 3, 4 and 5.

Joining them as soloist is Portuguese virtuoso, Artur Pizarro.

The fusion of superb orchestral playing, impressive solo artistry and the intellectual perception of that amazing octogenarian on the podium, when combined with the excellence of Linn's spacious recorded sound, produces a really compelling, not to say inspirational, collection of Beethoven's last three concertos for the keyboard.

That special fusion of scholarly maturity and youthful joie de vivre that is Mackerras is in evidence throughout, as the marvellously assured players of the SCO respond to his deep understanding of the music's expressive possibilities.

Although not created as a set by the composer (a gap of around 10 years separates No 3 from No 5), there is nevertheless a certain similarity in their compositional architecture. In round terms, No 3 is turbulent and even fierce, No 4 is tender and intense, and No 5 is majestic - explaining its nickname "Emperor". And, of course, overall they are unmistakably Beethoven.

The opening movement of the Third Concerto, the C Minor, immediately suggests the intimate scale of these performances with a relaxed Pizarro at once poetic and energetic, before going into a slow movement of radiant serenity and a finale bristling with charm and revelation. In the Fourth Concerto, Pizarro treats us to the most delicate of playing, with tone colour exquisite in its shading and lyricism, before surging off into an exhilarating finale. The Emperor, when it comes, is strong and reflective with distinctive poetic moments.

Throughout this impressive collection, Pizarro, the SCO and Mackerras combine to present outstanding performances, always satisfying and frequently inspiring.

Sunday Herald
04 May 2009