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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3

8 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 25 Oct 2004
  • Release Date: 25 Oct 2004
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • Copyright: (C) 2004 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:03:51
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001PMN35Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 177,808 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Costin on 23 July 2005
Format: Audio CD
What can I say...this is a special disk. Two great musicians with a wonderful, youthful orchestra - there's deep understanding and sympathy here on many levels. The slow movement of the 2nd Concerto is a particular favourite and I must admit I went straight to that track. There's the humanity of Kempff but an 'edge' to it which is unique. It's music I know well but still I was surprised and delighted around every corner. The music making is on such an instinctive level that you're convinced this is the ONLY was of doing it, perhaps the litmus test for a great performance. It's also nice to hear a player who's not trying to prove something in Beethoven!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr Swallow on 14 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Argerich is one of the truly great pianists of modern times. We are privileged to have missed by performance of these concertos with masterly conducting from Abbado. The pianism brings out all the nuances Beethoven's piano writing. It really is brilliant and life affirming. I have this pianists previous disk of Beethoven's second piano Concerto but this performance surpasses it partly because of the conducting. Abbado and Argerich bring the best out of each other. And Beethoven. Buy immediately!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philoctetes TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Mar 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Only four stars because, for all the encomia heaped on this first recording of No.3, I don't think Argerich's interpretation is fully formed yet. The notes speak of late night rehearsals and plenty of doubts. What you do get is a performance that is brimming over with passion and spontaneity, but maybe it needed more time and further performances to settle.

Maybe the orchestra could have benefitted from further performances as well. I can't say I'm greatly enamoured. Sometimes I wished for a more refined string section, and just once or twice I felt Abbado and his players were a little discomfited by their legendary soloist. With further listening, some of my doubts are receding.

I think you'll get a lot of pleasure from these performances, but remember they're live and applause/bravos are retained. Argerich demands to be heard in this - or indeed any - music, but is it a library recommendation?

Time will tell.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Argerich not at her very best, but fascinating 9 Dec 2004
By David Ramos da Silva - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This new album brings together two Beethoven Concertos : the second (actually the first written by the composer) and the famous third in C minor. Both concertos were recorded during live performances, in Ferrara (Italy), and for both, the legendary Martha Argerich was followed by her long-time friend Claudio Abbado, conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

The agitation over this album comes from the fact that it is Martha Argerich's first-ever recording of Beethoven's third. It is also relevant to note that the argentinian pianist had performed this work, according to the booklet, only twice in her life, the last one dating back to the late 1970s. For a first attempt in more than 20 years and for a live performance, the result is more than satisfying.

In the first movement, Argerich gives, in my opinion, a very expressive and dramatic rendition, while Abbado is somewhat more temperate and direct. This combination of "fire and water" works pretty well, as both approches tend to mix together towards the end of the movement, just before the tutti that leads to this increadible coda : in the first section, Martha Argerich manages to play these arpeggios faster than anybody I have heard so far, while in the second theme, she is extraordinary expressive, and in the conclusion, she is just poignant. However, I found a bit sad that right after the coda, she didn't manage to play the arpeggios clearly (not difficult enaugh for her?). But overall, the first movement was for me thrilling.

The second movement was in my opinion the best version I have ever heard. What was the most amazing for me was Argerich's quality of sound from the beginning to the end, and also her ability to recreate the piece as if it was being composed while she was playing.

As for the third movement, I was a little disappointed because it wasn't fast enaugh in my opinion (which is a bit surprising when you think of Argerich's usual demonic tempos in last movements), although it was fresh and sometimes seemed almost improvised. The performance was of course a huge succes, as you might imagine.

The Second Concerto is a work Martha Argerich has always performed a lot in her long career, and one notices it immediately. Everything seems so natural and spontaneous in her playing, as she manages to play with so many different dynamics, textures and moods. It just really makes you stop and listen. Compared to her, I found Gillels boring (!), although his version is great.

To conclude, I would highly recommend this album, definitely for the Second Concerto, but also for the Third which, if not perfect, is just amazing.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Fire and Ice 8 April 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Martha Argerich is undoubtedly one of the greatest pianists of our age. Claudio Abbado is clearly one of the greatest conductors of our age. What happens when the fiery Argentine Argerich plays with the cool and elegant Abbado? A combustion that shouldn't happen, but does, somehow. Argerich had never recorded the Third Concerto, and had only played it a handful of times before this live recording. In the first movement Abbado's classicist leanings are at odds with Argerich's almost willful fireworks. And yet it works. Don't ask me to explain that. But, rather like Orpheus taming the Furies in the Fourth Concerto, by the second movement, that lovely island of serenity, Argerich plays her opening solo so slowly, so elegantly, so achingly that time stands still. How she makes the piano sing! And how she manages it at that tempo is beyond understanding. But I can tell you that it is spellbinding. This is indeed a Fury turned into an Orpheus of our age. The Rondo starts at a moderately fast tempo, but seems to get faster and more exciting as it proceeds, and strangely this acceleration seems to come primarily from Abbado in the orchestra's first tutti. Indeed, at one spot later on Argerich gets marginally behind the orchestral onrush. No matter. This is a live concert with, as far as I know, no retakes, and one is caught up in the spirit of the moment. An exhilarating experience.

Our pianist has played the Haydnesque Second Concerto (actually, the first Beethoven wrote, begun way back in 1788) many times in her career. That has always struck me as a little odd, considering how fiery the pianist is and how classically restrained this concerto is. But in this performance she is totally at ease and plays in a patrician manner not usually associated with her. This reminds me of a long-ago recording by pianist Artur Balsam, a lamentably almost forgotten pianist, in its combination of composure and subtle drama. This time there is no conflict between pianist and orchestra; Abbado and Argerich are on the same wave-length throughout. Argerich's pearly runs, rock-steady tempi and particularly the time-stopping second movement cadenzas are beauteous to behold; the subtlety of Abbado's phrasing is equally remarkable. The young Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a group that Abbado has a special relationship with (as he has with other European orchestras with young players), play with grace, precision and élan.

This is a superb coupling, worthy of inclusion in any Beethoven collection. One hopes that Argerich/Abbado/MahlerCO will complete the set of the five concerti some time soon. And in live performances, to capture the excitement of the moment.

Enthusiastically recommended.


Scott Morrison
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Good to have major Beethoven on record from Argerich! 11 Aug 2007
By Elliot Richman - Published on
Format: Audio CD
There is no shortage of excellent versions of either of these Beethoven concertos but once again Martha Argerich does something unique and spectacular. It is axiomatic that in any work of Beethoven in which there is a piano, the piano is Beethoven himself. That concept is probably overlooked frequently, and many pianists probably do not think of themselves as "being Beethoven" as they play (modesty alone would preclude so doing until one thinks about it), but this concept is at the heart of the success achieved here by Argerich and her outstanding collaborator Claudio Abbado. Maestro Abbado plays it very straight; the Mahler Chamber Orchestra provides a clean and clear but rather straight-laced framework. Within that framework Argerich works her individualistic magic with extreme power, lyricism, and precision. Indeed, when Beethoven himself played, the orchestra had written parts and played what was written as well as it could, while Beethoven played mostly from his head with sometimes just rudimentary sketches (pity the page-turners!). His playing was unlike anything heard before--elemental in its power, shocking in its technical virtuosity and contrasts. There was no issue of the player and the conductor being completely parallel in their expressivity. The orchestra was the foil against which Beethoven reflected his ideas. Beyond a basic degree, there is no requirement for "one-to-one mapping" or pari passu matching between piano and orchestra. (This is obvious in the writing of the Third, for example, where the orchestra opens pianissimo and triadically and the piano finally enters in fortissimo octave scales, setting the pattern of difference to be resolved.) Abbado and Argerich do not, by any means, each go their own way, however. They are closely connected throughout, and both in the details (inner orchestral voices, timbres at phrase ends) and at the climaxes work well together. Both performances are recorded live (years 2000 and 2004). The technical articulation of Argerich's playing is astonishing and the lyricism of the slow movements is breath-taking. Rarely has the off-beat and frolicsome nature of the rondo of the Second been conveyed so clearly, and the sense of relief so complete when the theme finally arrives with the expected rhythm. In Argerich's hands as in no one else's I can hear how the quirky appogiaturas that pervade that last movement of the Second evolved into the light-hearted French style of Saint-Saens and Litolff later in the Nineteenth Century. Congratulations, Martha! This recording is a resounding success and a welcome addition to my library.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Magic Indeed! 8 Dec 2005
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Collaboration between soloist and conductor and orchestra is the key to superlative performance. One can place a headstrong soloist in front of a fine ensemble with a conductor whose vision of a work is fixed in place and no matter how fine each of the three components is individually, if they are not aligned the result is uninspired.

So with Marta Argerich whose relationship with Claudio Abbado has sustained accolades over the years joins with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra it seems a foregone conclusion that the synchrony will be there. And so it is with this CD of the Beethoven Second and Third Piano Concerti. From the opening measure to the last in each concerto there is a rightness of line, of balance, of lightness, of profundity, of technical brilliance and of spirituality that is matched by very few other recordings of these beloved works. Argerich is fluid, allowing the slow movements to evolve into an almost translucent presence, yet comes forth in the velocity courses with all the drama and fire that have marked her remarkable career.

Abbado knows the fine line between accompanying and co-creating and his precise control over the fine Mahler Chamber Orchestra adds space and breadth and excitement to these works. If this recording doesn't receive many awards then there is no justice! A splendid experience. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 05
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Breaking off Mozart with Hammerklavier. 24 July 2012
By Anna Shlimovich - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The past season in Boston Symphony had the Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major; it is not a Beethoven's work most frequently performed and so it was awaited with special anticipation. The very first sounds made us wonder if we were at the Beethoven's - so Mozartian it seemed. As the music progressed, the composer proved that it was he, although overall this music is not totally revolutionary, it only contains a few sparks that will ignite the famous future outburst. However the concerto was so delightful that it became a necessity to study it further and to listen to different interpretations.

In this review I will concentrate on this No. 2 concerto (not No.3 which is more popular), and among a few great pianists I've chosen Martha Argerich's performance. I loved her interpretation when first listening to it from the CD box, and then the booklet confirmed my feelings - Beethoven's Concerto No.2 has long been part of her repertoire which showed - she played it as no one. Together with Claudio Abbado they had truly created an unforgettable version of the work, and I return to this recording over and over. Some history will make it shine even brighter.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat--written first but published second, as Opus 19-- started its life in Bonn around 1790, but it did not reach its final form until Beethoven substituted a new rondo for the original finale in 1798. Beethoven may have played the B-fiat concerto in March or December of 1790 in Vienna, while it is known that he played the B-fiat concerto in Prague in 1798. Some further, slight revisions followed before the concerto was published in 1801.

Beethoven's first two piano concertos are exercises in the style of their day, suggesting that he was inclined to view the genre in terms more practical than ambitious. As with most soloists of the time, these were vehicles for his virtuoso career. In the years around the turn of the nineteenth century, Beethoven was very much a composer/pianist. He recalled that in his teens in Bonn he practiced "prodigiously."

When he arrived in Vienna in 1792, at age twenty-two, he was one of the finest pianists alive. His rise as a virtuoso was meteoric. Meanwhile, performing amounted to more than half his income. While he never had trouble selling his music, the pay for publication was skimpy, and there were no royalties. As a virtuoso, on the other hand, he could sometimes make a good part of a year's living in one sitting. When around 1802 he realized that he was going deaf and there was nothing to be done about it, part of his anguish was the imminent end to his playing career, which meant a great deal to him and also provided his readiest source of cash.

Beyond their practical function as vehicles for himself, in his first two concertos Beethoven was not yet ready to challenge Mozart's supremacy. Nearly everything he wrote in his younger years, and much after that, was based on models of the past. Highly versed in the repertoire, he looked for the best work in each genre and used it as a source of ideas and instruction. For string quartets and symphonies, that meant Haydn above all. When it came to concertos, the main model was Mozart. Also vital in his mind were the French violin concertos of G.B. Viotti. When it came to keyboard style and figuration, meanwhile, he studied the pioneering sonatas of Muzio Clementi.

The opening movement of the B-flat is so Mozartian that one could imagine that it is the older master. For the main theme he juxtaposed brisk fanfares with lyrical phrases. As in Mozart, after an extended orchestral tutti the soloist first enters with a quasi-new idea derived from earlier material; he soon slips into virtuosic roulades. The soloist will turn out to emphasize the lyrical aspect of the material, providing some quite lovely stretches. All of this shows a young composer/pianist as more at home with the keyboard than the orchestra.

Martha Argerich played this concerto with that spirit of youthfulness. I loved her fast tempi, very energetic, with Claudio Abbado deriving a robust yet sensitive partnership from the orchestra. In general, Italians seems to prefer faster playing, perhaps a tradition from Toscanini times, and it is not always complimentary of a work. But in the case of this concerto it seemed the most appropriate; the rapid tempo brought that typical Beethoven's playfulness that is so characteristic of his earlier works. I'd say in this aspect Argerich and Abbado made a unique interpretation.

The amazement awaits the listener at the cadenza in the first movement which puts a halt to any doubts about the authorship of this music. The cadenza is by Beethoven, and at the eleventh minute one can clearly hear the fragments of Hammerklavier sonata (Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106), written roughly 30 years later! The Hammerklavier theme continues for about a minute. It is always stunning to recognize in an early work the first signs of strength of the future mature genius.

Recordings of other pianists who play this cadenza also showcase these unmistakable Hammerklavier sounds, but I chose Argerich interpretation as one of the most moving and to my taste, authentic - meaning that Beethoven could have played it like she does.

While the first movement never entirely escapes Beethoven's Bonn apprenticeship, the next two movements sound more mature, more Viennese. Even here in one of the more cautious of his early opuses Beethoven tended to wide-ranging tonal peregrinations. The Adagio, in E-flat major, sounds Mozartian in conception but more nearly Beethovenian in tone, with an elegantly nocturnal atmosphere. It echoes the preciousness of the 18th- century ga/ant mood--also the lofty choruses of Mozart's Magic Flute (whose home key is E-flat major). As in Mozart slow movements, the theme is beautifully ornamented by the soloist; but the keys include a strikingly dark B-flat minor, and the pianism is fresh and brilliant.

Traditionally, concerto finales were lively and witty sonata-rondos--a convention Beethoven conformed to in all his concertos. (The most common sonata-rondo formal outline is ABACABA, with the A and B functioning like the first and second themes of a sonata, the C section often serving as development section.) For this finale Beethoven sketched a dancing 6/8 main theme that did not take wing until he moved its pickup note over to the downbeat, making a droll hopping effect. Here he plays the sort of joking game with rhythm and meter that Haydn was given to, but in a robust tone of his own. The C section jumps into a Turkish or gypsy-flavored minor. The soloist ends the story with a blaze of double trills in the right hand, a specialty of Beethoven the young virtuoso. In any case, when he published this concerto as Opus 19, Beethoven was already far beyond it as a composer: the blazing, revolutionary Pathétique piano sonata is Opus 13. Martha Argerich plays the sonata with the same mastery as this concerto, but it is another story...

This recording is highly recommended.
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