WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Beethoven: The Piano Concertos / Rudolf Buchbinder, Vienna Philharmonic

Beethoven / Buchbinder,Rudolf
Release Date: 01/07/2014 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 374521   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Recording of the Month

Listening to the cycle I am immediately struck by the pianist’s approach. This is not prettified or porcelain Beethoven, but granite-like in its conception. The performances show Beethoven moving away from Mozart, breaking new ground and employing more symphonic and architectural structures. What is also striking is that this is a partnership of equals, a true dialogue between piano and orchestra. Buchbinder’s impeccable technique allows him to realize his vision. The salient qualities of adventure and struggle permeate the music.

Outer movements are energized and some may find those of, say, the first concerto a little too hard-driven. The opening movement of the Emperor is
Read more magisterial in its conception, the third movement being bright and energetic. The third movements of the first and second concertos are imbued with wit, humour and joie de vivre, underpinned by an innate sense of rhythmic dynamism. Second movements are never too self-conscious, but lyrical and sensitively sculpted, Buchbinder striving for beauty of tone with exquisite voicing of chords. Tonal colour is achieved with judicious use of pedal. The slow movements are not overly romantic or wallowing, but emotions are contained and suitably reined in. The fourth concerto, which has always been my favorite, is a probing interpretation. The players really get under the skin of the music and tease out its sublime, gentle and heartfelt elements. The third concerto, likewise, is strongly argued.

The Vienna Philharmonic, who have this music in their blood, respond well to Buchbinder’s patrician insights and inspiring direction. He elicits refined and polished playing and the sound of the orchestra is enhanced by the glorious acoustic of the Musikverein. The performances hold your attention throughout. The engineers have achieved an ideal balance between piano and orchestra. The piano sound is bright, rounded and full. Tempi and dynamics are rightly judged. Audience applause is retained, but extraneous bronchial contributions seem conspicuously absent. For me, these live recordings stand up there with the greats, which include Brendel/Rattle, Brendel/Levine, both Pollini cycles, Gilels/Szell and Kempff/Van Kempen. These are five star performances, which will keep you on the edge of your seats.

– Stephen Greenbank, MusicWeb International

In May 2011 Rudolf Buchbinder led the Vienna Philharmonic from the piano in all five Beethoven concertos programmed across two concerts. Unitel released the cycle on DVD later that year. Sony now brings out the performance’s audio-only soundtracks on CD for those who’d rather listen without a visual counterpart.

The high standards and cultivated style characterizing Buchbinder’s Mozart concerto cycle (in which he also played duo conductor/soloist roles) apply to his Beethoven. While the expressive yet lean string sonorities and clearly audible wind and brass work suggest a modicum of period-performance influence, the generally conservative tempos (nothing too fast, nothing too slow), freedom from mannerisms or eccentricities, and genial melodic inflection from all participants place interpretations in line with other like-minded, centrist Beethoven cycles (Ashkenazy/Cleveland, Pollini/Böhm/Jochum, Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin, Lewis/ B?lohlávek, Uchida/Sanderling). Despite the absence of a full-time podium presence, Buchbinder and the Vienna Philharmonic achieve impressive ensemble synchronicity throughout, be it within the smallest rubatos or in moments when Buchbinder impulsively pushes ahead (the second theme of the C major concerto Rondo; No. 2’s first-movement development section) or else sneaks in an affectionate tenuto or two (the “Emperor” finale’s embellished notes).

The First concerto’s highlights include witty timing of the first movement’s harmonic detours and the refined repartée between the solo clarinet and trilling piano in the Largo. In the Rondo, however, I miss the lighter, more angular soloist’s touch we hear from Argerich, Fleisher, or Bronfman. If No. 2’s finale is not quite the rambunctious Molto allegro that Fleisher/Szell or Gould/Bernstein made it out to be, Buchbinder compensates with spontaneously playful inflections and precisely (not pedantically) articulated ornaments. The cello underpinnings in the Third concerto’s opening movement and lean textural transparency throughout create a tensile buoyancy that makes the basic tempo sound more animated than it actually is. The Largo is on the slow side, yet limpid and well sustained. The Rondo gains point and clarity as it unfolds, but the recorded balance covers the oboe solo in the opening–otherwise the sonics are robust and lifelike, notwithstanding occasional ambient rumblings that usually come with the territory during live recordings.

Although the Fourth concerto is the most difficult of Beethoven’s five in terms of ensemble precision, Buchbinder and his musicians dovetail tricky entrances remarkably well, despite a few inconsequential smudges. In fact, I like the slightly tentative questioning quality of the Rondo’s hushed opening phrase and appreciate how the music gradually gathers steam. Give Buchbinder podium credit, too, not just for taking the central movement’s Andante con moto at face value (many conductors turn it into a soggy dirge), but also for getting the strings to play “sempre staccato” to arguably clipped effect, yet with as full and focused a timbre as possible.

In the opening cadenza of the “Emperor”, Buchbinder catches your attention as he pulls back seconds before the orchestra’s second big chord and intensifies the harmonic spice of measure 9’s fifth chord by rolling the left hand–a wonderful effect. The development section’s scales that pass between soloist and orchestra transpire with genuine conversational flair and mystery. The Adagio is beautifully blended, if not quite so spacious or otherworldly as Arrau/Davis or Gilels/Ludwig, and leads into a bracing Rondo where the orchestra manages to match Buchbinder’s forward momentum.

This set may not be the last word in modern-day Beethoven concerto cycles, yet its many virtues affirm their welcome over repeated hearings. Buchbinder plays the usual Beethoven cadenzas for Nos. 2 and 3, the more familiar No. 4 first-movement cadenza choice (heard in recordings by Schnabel, Arrau, and Fleisher), and, in No. 1, the first of Beethoven’s three cadenzas, where the pianist tastefully fleshes out the manuscript’s missing final pages.

– Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN - TRY IT FREE!
Listen to all your favorite classical music for only $20/month.
Sign up for your monthly subscription service and get unlimited access to the most comprehensive digital catalog of classical music in the world - new releases. bestsellers, advanced releases and more.
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In