An Unnecessary Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

It’s not clear why this 2003 Beethoven Concerto cycle had to wait 10 years before being released, although it is no more competitive now than it would have been a decade ago. To be sure, Bernd Glemser is nothing less than a strong technician and ardent Beethoven stylist, even though his often brusque manner lacks the nuanced individuality and characterful profile we hear from pianists as disparate as Schnabel, Fleisher, Arrau, Uchida, and Bronfman. His hammered-out entrance in the “Emperor” concerto Rondo, or perfunctory, tensionless trills in the C minor concerto finale are cases in point. Yet the slow movements from the First and Fourth concertos benefit from Glemser’s warm, sustained, and expressive phrasing.

Given Bruno Weil’s pungent and incisive period-instrument performances of the concertos with Tafelmusik (Sony Vivarte), he leads the (presumably) modern-instrument Duisburger Philharmoniker in surprisingly softer-grained, more generalized, and less vividly detailed readings that are not helped by the slightly recessed and diffuse sonic image. Missing are the lean, smartly contoured orchestra strands, alluring instrumental color, and engaging presence that earned the Yefim Bronfman/David Zinman/Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra recordings modern reference status. Glemser plays the longest of Beethoven’s three first-movement cadenzas for the First concerto, and the more common Fourth concerto first movement option favored by Schnabel, Bronfman, Goode, and Arrau.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bronfman/Zinman (Arte Nova), Fleisher/Szell (Sony)

  • MDG - 601 1226 2
  • CD

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