Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 4. Triple Concerto
Michael Roll (pn); Jean-Jaques Kantorow (vn); Raphael Wallfisch (vc); Howard Shelley, cond; Royal PO
ROYAL PHILHARMONIC MASTERWORKS 28700 (66:02)
Although Michael Roll has had a long career that goes back to 1963, when, at the age of 17 and one of 88 competitors, he won the first Leeds International Piano Competition, this release has been my first exposure to his work. May it not be the last! Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to this account of the Fourth Concerto is to
say that it suggests the recordings made by Schnabel and Fleisher. Outer movements are not unduly distended, and throughout, their pace is never violated by excessive rhythmic freedom. In fact one might argue that a tad more rhythmic inflection would have been welcome. Still, on its own terms, the performance remains tastefully direct without compromising the music’s blend of assertive thrust and flowing lyricism. The second movement is especially effective in its pacing. Some performers have turned it into a dirge, but Roll—like Schnabel, Fleisher, and Schiff—honors Beethoven’s specification of
Andante con moto
, thereby retaining the movement’s flowing, two-to-the bar character.
Fine as the performance of the Fourth Concerto is, this one of the Triple Concerto is even finer. I came to know the work from a recording made in 1937 with Felix Weingartner conducting. It was pleasant enough, but not particularly impressive. A few from later years made it more attractive, but none matched this one in its intensity, tensile thrust, and sheer energy. The balance among the three soloists is ideal, the violin on the left, the piano centered, and the cello on the right. Each is clearly delineated with the exchanges among them sharply defined. And the orchestra is spread with tremendous impact from the extreme left to the extreme right. Sonically, this is the finest account I have heard. And the superb musicianship that complements it underscores the outer movements’ finely shaped structures, a virtue especially welcome in a work like this that can sound rambling and dull. As heard here it is top-drawer Beethoven anticipating the ethos of his “Emperor” Concerto.
A word about the record label: To quote the insert booklet, “Royal Philharmonic Masterworks is a special series of audiophile recordings … covering the Classical, Romantic, and 20th-century periods.” In this release, the sound lives up to that claim in the “Triple” Concerto, but is slightly disappointing in the Concerto No. 4 where a slight coarseness of orchestral sound exists. But the balance there is fine, with the piano never, as is sometimes the case, covering significant orchestral detail. Certainly as an introduction to this music, both performances can be recommended. And that of the Triple Concerto should be had by anyone interested in the work regardless of how many versions the collector may already possess.
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Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Michael Roll (Piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria
Length: 32 Minutes 42 Secs.
Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello in C major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Michael Roll (Piano),
Raphael Wallfisch (Cello),
Jean-Jacques Kantorow (Violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1804; Vienna, Austria
Length: 33 Minutes 20 Secs.
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