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Beethoven - Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 [Hybrid SACD] Hybrid SACD

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Scottish Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: Charles Mackerras
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (4 May 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD
  • Label: Linn Records
  • ASIN: B001W1SLTS
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,603 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 - Artur Pizarro/Scottish Chamber Orchestra
  2. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 - Artur Pizarro/Scottish Chamber Orchestra
  3. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73, 'Emperor' - Artur Pizarro/Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Product Description

BBC Review

Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra come to Beethoven's piano concertos trailing glory in their wake following a well-received symphony cycle in 2007 and last year's universally admired set of late Mozart symphonies.

Beethoven's last and pivotal piano concertos set their own strongly contrasted array of challenges for a musical partnership led by an 83-year-old conductor whose career began in the now long-distant era of 78s, and who is clearly relishing his Indian summer, and a soloist barely half his age whose own recordings of the Beethoven sonatas were praised for their ''re-creative energy and exuberance''.

Those qualities are also to the fore in these expansive but fleetly realised accounts of concertos that usher in the transition from ornamented classical daintiness to concentrated romantic drama.

Originally intended to include just the Third and Fourth Concertos, the addition of the Emperor was the happy result of Pizarro, Mackerras and his crack Scottish band powering through the original programme to leave time enough to capture the coupling. It's a mark of the journey they make, from the stormy, experimental sonorities of the Third to the majestic rhetoric of the Fifth via the tender lyricism of the Fourth that this turns out to be a remarkably coherent, hugely enjoyable offering rich in invention and altogether assured in execution.

These studio readings exult in the vital spontaneity and alert reciprocity more typical of a live performance. Pizarro's blend of perfectly proportioned poetry, dancing lyricism and muscular prowess calls to mind earlier performances by Kempff, Kovacevich and Gilels while bringing a fresh, questing dynamism all his own to bear. He negotiates the tempestuous currents of the Third with an almost insouciant nimbleness that serves the music's impetuous, truculent demeanour. In the Fourth, he is lullaby-tender and effusively lyrical yet manages to retain the darkly alluring gravity that underpins its nobility and poise.

Perhaps lacking just that last ounce of courage in the Fifth, Pizarro's reading is nonetheless lithe and lyrical, its outer movements solid and serious, the inner Adagio sweetly sung.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra play as to the manor born, Mackerras multi-faceted and magnificent, the recorded sound up to Linn's usual high standards. --Michael Quinn

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The recorded sound is ideal. 4 Stars --BBC Music Magazine

This must be one of the very best, but we don't indulge in comparative reviews and stars. It evinces happy cooperation between all concerned, with our leading octogenarian conductor and a great pianist who has proved himself through winning the Leeds competition long ago, and by important Beethoven sonata recordings as well as much else - especially for us, Blackheath's fondly remembered pianoworks festivals 10 years ago. The great Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Linn names its every member in the liner notes), a fine Bluthner piano (which makes a huge difference) and a class technical team working in a perfect recording venue at Perth complete the recipe... This twofer offers musical and sonic pleasures to surpass most live concerto performance experiences, and for connoisseurs the interpretations are full of delightful details best enjoyed at home. I have been pleased to confirm that Pizarro's double disc is being sold two-for-one at top price, £13. That seems fair, and purchasers should not look for cheaper Beethoven concerto sets, of which there are doubtless plenty... --Musical Pointers

The Beethoven concertos positively sparkle in their chamber-sized guise. A strong contender in any benchmarking in the future. --George Pratt

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
At first glance by all rights, this pairing of big-toned pianist Artur Pizarro with the reduced band forces of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra ( led by Sir Charles Mackerras) should not work very well. The inherent potential contradictions between Pizarro's big singing tone, and the lively ensemble with a smaller number of players that a chamber orchestra typically indicates could reasonably be expected to sabotage the whole reading.

Truth is, that just doesn't happen on this set. All three piano concertos are high contenders. Three, Four, and Five (The Emperor).

Part of the thriving must be chalked up to the super audio surround sound which brings all the players to live so warmly, yet so clearly. The venue is the Perth Hall, UK. A quick glance at the set booklet reveals that the venerable James Mallinson was producer. If any producer should be able to get it right, Mallinson is surely on the A&R short lists. So. All in all, this set is a musical demo - not necessarily a flash and cannons demo - of what super audio surround sound can do for Beethoven well played. Recommended sound.

Pizarro does not try to shrink down his basic tone in these readings; that would be a musical mistake. What he does, is take very alert pains to vary his touch and phrasing so that his playing comes across in keeping with the overall warmth-plus-clarity-in-Beethoven that we are getting full tilt from the band. The gaps, between hearing a chamber band do Beethoven vigorously and hearing a big-handed player do the piano, never really materialize.

What does materialize in abundance is heart, singing tone, and a punch to drive home the intellectual and musical story.
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Format: Audio CD
I have to say I was expecting to be disappointed with this album, because I could not imagine how their Mozart Symphonies album could ever be bettered. Mackerras is on fine form again with this recording. He always has something new to say, even with music that has been recorded many times. I was also hugely impressed with Artur Pizarro, who is a really talented pianist. Together with the SCO (who I find always perform their absolute best for Mackerras) they create performances which are not to be missed.
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I don't know what those who say the tempos of these performances are `mainstream' are on about? All these performances are on the brisk side, and so much the better for it - you just have to listen to the slow mvt of the 5th to appreciate what a significant improvement is delivered. What chamber music players have known for the last 20 years, and the period performance advocates have been trying to demonstrate -though the battle is, remarkably, not yet won - is that everything in Beethoven is really a dance or a song - chopped up and perverted perhaps, but a dance or a song nonetheless.

These performances are an absolute game-changer. Once you've heard them then all the rest - including the ones you once loved - will just irritate you, and perhaps even make you angry - that anyone once thought they should sound like Bruckner 8 or Heldenleben. They're not Brahms or Rachmaninov? Why play them like it?
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This is a very high quality production of its kind. Whether its kind will suit you I have no way of knowing, but I shall do what I can to explain what you will find here.

First, the orchestra is a chamber group, with 46 artists playing in each concerto. If you are accustomed to the 5th piano concerto played by a larger ensemble, so am I, and I can report truthfully that I sensed no lack of power or of full tone anywhere here. The conductor is the evergreen Sir Charles Mackerras, and as it is the orchestra that really sets the style, even in the 5th concerto, expect to hear orchestral introductions that are urbane rather than emphatic. I suppose that this is an issue mainly in no 3, where the first movement is directed to be played `allegro con brio'. I find myself hesitant to express a definite opinion about the way Mackerras handles this. Certainly I could imagine more brio, but thinking of other cases where Beethoven gives this instruction I don't seem to find it in the fieriest pieces. The first movement of the Eroica symphony and of the Waldstein sonata are `allegro con brio', for instance, whereas the far tenser first movements of the 5th symphony and the sonata Appassionata are not.

Pizarro's tone fits this approach like a glove, being rich in quality and not conveying any sense of deliberate restraint. Technically nothing bothers him, and that is more than one can say even today for many players in the rondo theme from no 5. Likewise his despatch of the fiendish sequences in that work's first movement where the left hand descends in chromatic scales in a cross-rhythm against the right hand is satisfyingly vigorous and uninhibited. It is not how Michelangeli or Serkin do it, but they are a different story.
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