on 19 January 2013
You know you're in the hands of Harnoncourt when you hear the end of the first movement of the piano concerto No.1. The intensity and weight of the orchestra is tremendous, as if they are in the midst of one of Beethoven's symphonies, but then suddenly the weight is shifted away. I don't think I've heard these piano concertos with such a clear feeling that the minds of the conductor and the pianist are so involved - together, apart, fighting, and caressing the music in turns. It means that the exchanges are very tense, as if the orchestra objects to having to allow the piano back in, and yet other moments when it is gently carrying the soloist with it.
You could say that at times Harnoncourt is too symphonic or pushing the orchestra's presence too much, but not for me. I just have the feeling he has the Beethoven "stubbornness" in mind; as if Beethoven himself cannot decide whether a phrase or melody should be in a symphony or here with the piano.
Aimard is distinctive in his power and never hesitant in his touch. He is clear, sure and sensitive throughout; determined not to be overshadowed or lost. The tension never leaves off, and, as with Harnoncourt's symphony cycle, the break between movements is uncut, but you'd never know these were live recordings. The sound is first class and I vigorously recommend you buy the set.