Giltburg and Petrenko Shine in Early Beethoven Piano Concertos

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Here’s a very promising start to what I assume will be a new Beethoven piano concerto cycle, featuring performances not otherwise included in Naxos’ “complete” Beethoven box. Boris Giltburg plays both works with the youthful panache that they require–the kind that makes you forget about any formal issues and just revel in the virtuoso passagework and good tunes. The standard for comparison in this coupling is Argerich/Sinopoli on DG–you might think an unmatchable team, at least pianistically, but Giltburg more than holds his own. Indeed, in Concerto No. 2 he matches Argerich’s fleet timing in the finale (and other movements) almost exactly, and in the First Concerto he’s even a bit quicker, all without sacrificing subtleties of touch, dynamics and phrasing for mere velocity.

Of course there are difference–welcome ones too. In the first concerto, Giltburg adds a couple of minutes to the central Largo, producing a genuine specimen of that particular tempo designation. His legato playing is beautifully sustained, making this early example of Beethovenian lyricism a real gem. Petrenko accompanies with real flair, proving himself a true partner in both concerto first movements. It’s so much more satisfying to have a real conductor working with a gifted soloist, rather than the single-person-at-the-keyboard approach so frequently offered these days. There’s just no substitute for full-time orchestral guidance. Giltburg also includes the original “Concerto No. 2 finale version” of the Rondo WoO 6, a considerable bonus, as are his intelligent and detailed booklet notes. Fine playing, fine conducting, fine engineering–in short, a really fine release generally.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Argerich/Sinopoli (DG)

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