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Beethoven: Piano Concertos, Diabelli Variations / Backhaus


Release Date: 04/08/2003 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 433891   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

At least three Backhauses (Backhauser?) are present in this fine performance, not always simultaneously. The magisterial and commanding Backhaus is, for the most part, in charge of the first movement (whose tension is masterfully maintained) but with the severe and poker-faced, professorial Backhaus occasionally putting in an appearance to ensure that there is no sentimental lingering over inessentials. The slow movement, beautifully restrained and with finely-chiselled phrasing, is clearly the work of a more poetic, pensive Backhaus, firmly controlled (though not effaced) by the other two. This third character threatens to run amok in the finale (there are one or two patches of very wilful rubato) but he is quickly brought to heel by Read more Backhaus Mk. II, to produce an interpretation of the movement that is stately rather than exuberant. It is not, in short, the most integrated Emperor ever recorded, nor can it be readily compared with other performances—it is far too personal, too uniquely Backhaus for that. It is, though, by far the finest of his later Beethoven concerto cycle, a fascinating document of an absorbingly complex artist and (with a recorded tone that still sounds very well indeed) one of the most recommendable Emperors in the catalogue—far from 'reliable', but often challenging, a performance to argue with.

-- Gramophone [10/1976, reviewing the Emperor Concerto]

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An unaffected reading with well-judged tempi which has the virtues of sobriety to commend it. This was Backhaus's second LP account (the first made in 1951) when he was in his mid-seventies. It eschews any kind of interpretative point-making presenting an unadorned, factual account of the score. On its first appearance WSM spoke of its "olympian efficiency, unconcerned to explore the beauties of the music" and the authors of the Stereo Record Guide noted that Backhaus is "magisterial but at times dry and summary in his interpretation of the finer points", so that I am not alone in finding it marmoreal and detached. It is extremely well recorded with warm, well-blended sound and an excellent balance between soloist and orchestra; there is no want of detail and the piano tone is fresh and lifelike.

-- Gramophone [6/1976, reviewing the Third Concerto]
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1958 
2. Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1958 
3. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1958 
4. Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1958 
5. Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1959 
6. Variations (33) for Piano on a Waltz by Diabelli in C major, Op. 120 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1819-1823; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1955 

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