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Hummel, Beethoven: Klavierkonzert

Hummel / Marsoner / Biel Sym Orch / Rosner
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Gramola   Catalog #: 98938   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Nepomuk HummelLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Ingrid Marsoner
Conductor:  Thomas Rösner
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HUMMEL Piano Concerto No. 2 in a, op 85. BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 Ingrid Marsoner (pn); Thoman Rösner, cond; Bienne SO GRAMOLA 2012 (62:47)

Is there still such a thing as a Viennese performance style? The poise and elegance of these historically informed performances on modern instruments make me think there may be. Ingrid Marsoner is an Austrian pianist whose recordings of Schubert sonatas and the Read more Goldberg Variations have been praised in these pages. From the piano’s first entrance in the Hummel concerto, her refined yet authoritative playing demands attention and gives pleasure. The Bienne Symphony Orchestra is a little-known group from the Swiss city of Biel. Under the alert direction of their Viennese conductor, Thomas Rösner, it accompanies Marsoner with nuance and spirit.

Gramola’s booklet notes point out that Hummel was aptly named after Johannes Nepomuk, the patron saint of bridges. His style is indeed a bridge between Mozart’s, specifically in the piano concertos, and early Romanticism, specifically Chopin. The style of Chopin’s concertos is foreshadowed both in the piano part and the role of the orchestra in Hummel’s attractive Second Concerto. Hummel’s passagework is sometimes aimless compared to Chopin’s, but his orchestration is more varied and colorful. It’s also easy to hear the influence of Mozart, namely the famous slow movement of the Piano Concerto in C, K 467, in the triplets of Hummel’s short Larghetto, but without Mozart’s melodic inspiration. The third movement is the work’s most distinctive, with its measured folklike rondo theme and beautifully contrasting lyrical episodes, played simply and deliberately by Marsoner. She dispatches the speedy final section with thrilling fingerwork.

After some regret that the disc doesn’t offer a second Hummel concerto, instead of the ubiquitous Beethoven First, I was quickly won over by the unpretentious performance of the Beethoven, a more Mozartian reading than most, as much on account of the orchestra’s detailed articulation and dynamic range as Marsoner’s sensitive, direct playing. It fits with her interpretation that, instead of the huge first-movement cadenza that is usually heard—Beethoven’s longest for any concerto—she plays one of two smaller alternative cadenzas that he left. It helps that the mellifluous tone of Marsoner’s instrument, which I assume is a Hamburg Steinway, is not at all metallic in the treble, and that the recording is not as live as possible, but warm and nicely detailed.

Certainly, this performance doesn’t supersede other favorite versions of the Beethoven. Leon Fleisher and George Szell take the central movement much slower than Marsoner and Rösner—Fleisher/Szell’s timing is 12:15 compared to Marsoner/Rösner’s relaxed 9:45— and their older, Wagnerian concept of the meaning of largo works beautifully. Martha Argerich—no surprise—is just a bit more dazzling in the finale than Marsoner, though her performance, with Heinz Wallberg conducting, is less well recorded. Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Nikolaus Harnoncourt reveal things in the music that I hadn’t heard before in their broadly paced rethinking of the first movement, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is an edgier, more brilliant ensemble than the Bienne orchestra.

Nonetheless, Marsoner and Rösner offer highly recommendable Beethoven and outstanding Hummel. Based on these performances, I imagine that they would be ideally suited to collaborating in some Mozart concertos.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 85 by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Performer:  Ingrid Marsoner (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Rösner
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1816; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Solothurn, Switzerland 
Length: 31 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Ingrid Marsoner (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Rösner
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Solothurn, Switzerland 
Length: 31 Minutes 37 Secs. 

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