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Beethoven: Concertos For Piano No 1 & 3 / Pletnev, Gansch, Et Al


Release Date: 03/13/2007 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000824402   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev
Conductor:  Christian Gansch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Imported from : European Union   
CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos: No. 1 in C; No. 3 in c Mikhail Pletnev (pn); Christian Gansch, cond; Russian Natl O DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 000824402 (67:52) Live: Bonn 9/2/2006


This must be the season for Beethoven’s No. 3—only a few years ago DG released Martha Argerich’s first go at this concerto (coupled with her third try at No. 2), and Arte Nova paired Yefim Bronfman’s reading with No. 4. Now Mikhail Pletnev and his not-so-Russian-sounding RNO have announced a new “ambitious project” of recording the piano Read more concertos and all the symphonies. The latter should show (complete) in autumn of this year, while Concerto No. 5 makes its way into public consumption in the spring of 2008. You will notice from the headnote that Pletnev has opted out of the stick-wielding role in the concertos, enlisting one Christian Gansch, a name new to me, for dictatorial duties.


Pletnev has not been my favorite pianist (or conductor, for that manner) over the years, and I was all in a fog as to what he would do with these concertos. As it turns out, his approach is quite different for each, but not for the reasons you might think. No. 1 is, of course, actually No. 2 in order of composition, and as such it has traditionally straddled the fence in terms of type. The arguments will never end as to whether any particular work of Beethoven’s should be interpreted in a “Classical” vs. “Romantic” style, and certain works, like the First Concerto, lend themselves to this sort of heated speculation. I have always leaned in the direction of the big, broadly paced yet fervently flushed romanticism of this piece, and any attempts to “chamberize” it usually leave me cold.


But Pletnev doesn’t seem to be thinking in these terms at all. We might more aptly characterize his vision as “willful” vs. “static,” the latter in the Robert Shaw sense of faithfulness to the score at all costs. Pletnev is a taffy-puller; he likes to arbitrarily slow down tempos, linger for a moment over certain phrases (the only reason being that he seems to especially like a particular phrase), and put undue emphasis on elemental rhythmic structures, again, simply because he seems to like the effect and not because it illumines anything Beethoven came up with. His pianism is poetic, to be sure, as a quick sampling of his slow movements will demonstrate, but one gets the feeling that he is trying to be different for the sake of being different. (This has a proud philosophical history, of course, Mr. Gould trumpeting it loudly his whole life as a general recording philosophy.) But I am not at all sure that it tops the triumphal vision of Ashkenazy and Solti on their Decca Chicago recording, or the wonderful Richter/Munch reading, now dated and sort of tinny, but sublime nonetheless. His orchestra sounds like one of these cases where small or reduced was recorded to sound large, but I can’t be sure. But this definitely falls into the “Romantic” camp, and that alone, in these particular days, might be enough of a recommendation for many.


The C-Minor, being the more popular concerto, consequently has far more competition, especially of late. Argerich was successful enough to get a definite thumbs-up from Mortimer Frank (28:5), who singled out her poetic Largo while admiring the tautness of the overall conception. Almost for entirely different reasons did James Camner add this recording to the 2005 Want List, pleasantly persuaded by her 19th-century Romantic tendencies. I must confess—and this from a confirmed Argerich addict—that I found her Third not entirely convincing, suffering from a hardness of tone and a generally unpersuasive sense of direction, which makes me understand why she avoided this concerto for so long. It is one that lends itself to all sorts of tinkering, usually with the intention of pushing its dramatic sensibilities to the hilt. Pletnev makes Argerich sound like a period performer (and much of this is Abbado’s doing as well), relinquishing his turn at overindulgence as in the First Concerto, and giving us a remarkably seasoned and perfectly paced reading of great sympathy and clarity—not to mention letting the full inherent romanticism of the concerto come through in spades. I liked this reading a lot, and it sounds great to boot.


Bronfman and Zinman also found the right tone in No. 3, as Jerry Dubins testified to in 29:4, and though the Zurich Orchestra practices wannabe periodism under its conductor, he still understands how this concerto should go, and lets Bronfman go at it. At the price it can’t be beat. But my heart will probably always belong to Arthur Rubenstein and Erich Leinsdorf on the old RCA Boston set, for a reading of great drama, power, and supple pianism. So Pletnev gives us a mixed bag, with a questionable No. 1 and superb No. 3. But the latter is enough to persuade me, and the former serves as an interesting alternative. I look forward to next spring.


FANFARE: Steven Ritter
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Conductor:  Christian Gansch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 9/2/2006 
Venue:  Live Bonn, Germany 
2. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Conductor:  Christian Gansch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 9/2/2006 
Venue:  Live Bonn, Germany 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15: 1. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15: 2. Largo
Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15: 3. Rondo (Allegro scherzando)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37: 1. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37: 2. Largo
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37: 3. Rondo (Allegro)

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