93 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Paul Lewis, BBCSO, Belohlavek: Beethoven P Ctos: Very, very, very worthy readings, all five ...,
This review is from: Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos (Paul Lewis) (Audio CD)Concerto 1 opens with a lean and lively touch, with special phrasing and lilt in the contrasting woodwinds parts. Since the opening is long-ish, this helps sets the stage for good things to come? Sure enough, when the piano finally enters, Paul Lewis is keeping up just fine. He takes a lighter way with phrasing, though articulation is dry and essentially Beethoven-ian in its speed and wit. By the second extended band passages, we are getting early Beethoven punch in the sforzandos, usually with the piano offering up fast-improvisatory runs and just so explorations of the harmonic framework. The whole first movement walks a fine, deft musical path in balance, appealing with song and shape in a sophisticated Mozart-ean way while still yet bringing out a sense of the composer thinking up things to do at the keyboard, all on the immediate fly. The slow middle movement is hypnotically, deeply beautiful, tinged with remarkable wit and playfulness to enhance, not disrupt, the magical Beethoven spell. Our concluding first concerto movement is exactly the happy romp it was written to be. Clearly more Beethoven in its frisky energies and fresh good humor, than anything else it could possibly be played to be.
The second concerto also gets a very successful reading. Lewis and company manage it without calling undue attention to its precedent sibling, also-ran possibilities. Nobody needs to downplay the backwards-seeming glances involved in this firstly written piano concerto - they are what they are. Instead, our performers bring out the music's witty piquant songfulforce and flavor, sounding more indebted in symphonic scope than not -to, say, the late London symphonies by Haydn? Lewis lets his piano out, full-steam athletic and lithe though not necessarily Romantic-heavy; so that his contributions have constant intellectual and emotional drive, whereas many readings of the first concerto are happy enough to let ease-full song and Mozart-ean repose be watchwords. Truth is, I've always found this (first concerto, published second) to sound inferior, put side by side on most single discs as the habit of producers and players is. Not this time around, though. Lewis and partners really convey the composer's youthful stature, not just his familiar and fond great models. Ah, the brilliant intellect of Beethoven's improvisations, bright lights all shining far and wide. Give Belohlavek credit for having his BBC players open up the enlarged scope of the band writing, far beyond even good accompaniment to the young Beethoven at the keyboard. Just listen to how the band begins the slow middle movement; instantly true in phrasing and implicit punch to Beethoven styles. Lewis' elaborates lyrically, as if improvising again. The rock bottom grip on harmony and gears changing is pure Beethoven. Nor is the concluding fast movement anti-climactic, adding oodles of ideas seeming to flood out, a culminating effect, brilliant yet substantial.
The third concerto's start is a stealth beginning, insofar as it initially sounds like a slightly expansive continuation of the first two concertos before overflowing and bursting its standing classical molds. Belohlavek and players have a palpably warm way with melody that does not neglect sforzando punch and forward motion. Tempos are not eccentric - nothing overly fast, nothing overly slow; but the inner sense of the flow, paragraph to paragraph to paragraph, is compelling. When Lewis does enter with his declamatory gestures, as well as laying out his thematic ideas, we have superseded the first two concertos by long, long miles. This reading joins my other three fav versions of the third concerto, along with Pollini under Karl Bohm, Brendel under Haitink, Charles Rosen with Wyn Morris.
Clearly, by the time a disc and a half have spun, we have lift off.
The fourth concerto deserves - and gets, here - a positively sublime reading. My own fantastical recollected benchmark is from a long-ago live concert with Clifford Curzon at the piano. Revelatory, I felt at the time; and far deeper, far more mesmerizing than even the Decca/London recording Curzon did with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Knappertsbusch. Nobody on disc has so far quite equaled my memories of Curzon, live. Near to that height, the fav shelf holds Rubinstein (Leinsdorf), Russell Sherman (Vaclav Neumann, James Bolle at Monadnock), Moravec (Turnovsky), Perahia (Haitink), Hungerford, and Rosen (Morris).
One marker for the imperious Emperor concerto has been Rudolf Serkin with Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic. Lewis and company chart their own high paths. The reading is not carved in granite like some others; it is ... what? Alert, compelling, and touched again and again with what seem like improvisatory flights of immediate fancy. What does ring familiar Serkin-Bernstein bells is that Belohlavek stays right with Lewis, all the way, first notes to last. The musical partnership of band and keyboard, conductor and band and pianist, is interactively alive, apt, able, and utterly carries the day. Though this reading exhibits great, great strength, it never oversteps into bombast, nor needs to break through into blimply inflations. One can vividly appreciate how this concerto perennially appealed to the great virtuoso Franz Liszt without actually having to have the music become Liszt.
These players did the five concertos together, live - at the summer Proms, 2010. Remarkably, these recordings were done in 2009-2010, before the series of live summer concerts. One could be forgiven for thinking it was the other way around, so intensely musical and intellectually-emotionally unified is the partnership among conductor, band, and pianist - so filled with alert give and take, and always humming along the Beethoven highways with an abundant sense of great power and great finesse and great enjoyment. Based on his leadership in all five concertos, a listener may suspect that Jiri Belohlavek could offer us a complete Beethoven symphony set to rival Paul Lewis' complete piano sonatas?
Okay, forget stars ... we're that far out into the cosmos of music, of Beethoven. Save up for Lewis' piano sonatas if you don't already have them on your birthday and holiday wish lists. Just listen, listen, listen, listen.
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Dec 2010 17:53:46 GMT
Tam Pollard says:
A small correction - the live Proms performances were not all done with these same forces. 1 and 4 were, but for 2 he was joined by Nelsons and the CBSO, 3 was with Mark Elder and the Halle and 5 was with Deneve and the RSNO.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›