Berezovsky’s Beethoven Concertos: A Stimulating Conclusion

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

This release brings Thomas Dausgaard’s survey of Beethoven’s orchestral works and Boris Berezovsky’s concerto cycle to a stimulating close. The “Emperor” Concerto’s first movement is brisk and straightforward, with minimum string vibrato, assertive brass, incisive woodwind ensemble, and the timpanist joyfully up front. Indeed, the exposition’s brief detour into the remote key of C-flat doesn’t slow down as it usually does in “traditional” performances. Whatever Dausgaard’s chamber orchestra lacks in dynamic heft is more than compensated for by strong rhythmic acuity and utterly clear balances between sections in loud tuttis, such as in the development section’s climax.

Berezovsky pedals sparely, letting his sharply honed fingers do the work with eloquence and just the right force. The Rondo is a good example of how fanciful dynamic hairpins enhance rather than detract from Berezovsky’s stylish brio and continuity. The musicians take the Adagio’s “Un poco mosso” directive to heart. Many pianists understandably and effectively liberally stretch the right hand cantabiles for expressive purpose. Conversely, Berevozsky applies rubato discreetly and generates genuine tension, observing the phrase markings that begin and end between beats.

In the Choral Fantasy, Dausgaard’s penchant for crisp chordal attacks and timbral diversity demonstrates the virtues of the period instrument influence minus the mannerisms. Note Berezovsky’s combination of virtuosic flair and classical poise in the opening unaccompanied cadenza, and the performance features one of the best integrated vocal ensembles to be heard in any recorded version. If I slightly lean towards Leif Ove Andnes’ contemporaneous Choral Fantasy, it’s due to the Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s more characterfully nimble first desk soloists. That takes nothing away from this disc’s overall distinction. Even in a catalog overrun with superb Emperors and Choral Fantasies, Berezovsky and Dausgaard leave a formidable mark.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Op. 73: Gilels/Ludwig (Testament), Op. 80: Serkin/Bernstein (Sony)

    Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major O;. 73 (“Emperor”); Choral Fantasy in C Major Op. 80

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