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Beethoven: The Piano Concertos / Levin, Gardiner


Release Date: 09/14/1999 
Label:  Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog #: 459622   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert LevinJulian ClarksonSusannah SpicerConstanze Backes,   ... 
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et RomantiqueMonteverdi Choir
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 4 Hours 34 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Acutely communicative and undogmatically stylish, these performances have a sense of spontaneity and relish which is positively contagious.

...The period instruments of the ORR and the carefully chosen fortepianos (after Anton Walter, Vienna, 1795) are simply the highly efficient tools with which the musicians’ vision is shaped. And the tension of newly assured, propulsive energy coiled within the first movement of the Concerto No. 1 in C surely re-creates about as convincingly as possible Beethoven’s sheer excitement and struggle in working with both a developing language and fast-evolving instruments.

But first things first. The dancing dotted rhythms of the opening of the Concerto No. 2 point to where
Read more this music came from as much as where it is going to. As Levin writes in his penetrating booklet-notes, in matters of rhetoric and thematic development Beethoven looked to Haydn; but his rhythmic and harmonic vocabulary was Mozart’s. Levin’s deep study of both enriches his voyage into Beethoven. The silvery treble of this fortepiano makes this movement far from earthbound; and the more luminous voice of the instrument chosen for the C major Concerto guides the articulation and breathing of its second movement in such a way that its pulse seems to find new, steady health.

-- Hilary Finch, Gramophone [1997, reviewing the 1st and 2nd Concerti and Rondo, DG 453438]

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This disc...contains what I would tentatively suggest is as creative and musically illuminating an account of the Fourth Concerto as any the gramophone has yet given us.

It is a performance which declares its genius from the outset, with the Ossianic beauty of the fortepiano's arpeggiated first chord and Gardiner's mesmerizingly beautiful phrasing of the ritornello's opening statement. I am no great fan of fortepianos but Levin's playing of this particular instrument (a copy by Paul McNulty) of a Viennese fortepiano c 1805) is breathtaking. Levin is, of course, a great master of the medium, not least in two areas which crucially affect this concerto: the need for the finest of 'fine' dynamics, and the finest, freest kind of agogic control.

The playing of the first movement is a marvel, crowned by a cadenza of Levin's own devising of real vision and splendour. But, then, so are the two succeeding movements. Taking his cue from Beethoven's image of Orpheus taming the beasts with his lyre, Levin again gently arpeggiates the chord sequences. The effect, realized with the kind of soft, silvery single-string sound which you can only properly achieve on an instrument of the period, is as bewitching as the trilled return to the full three-string sonority (3'16'' ff) is terrifying.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [1/2000, reviewing the 3rd and 4th Concerti, DG 457608]

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[I]f you must have the older instrument, you won’t find better accounts than these. Lively (sometimes almost to a fault), acutely communicative and undogmatically stylish, they have a sense of spontaneity and relish which is positively contagious. An added bonus is the inclusion of two alternative improvisations, by Levin himself, as curtain-raisers to the Choral Fantasy.

Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5)

-- Jeremy Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine [reviewing the 5th Concerto]

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Beethoven was a past master at recycling his compositions for different instrumental forces. One can choose for example to hear the early E major Piano Sonata in its alternative guise as an effective String Quartet or, more controversially, the Violin Concerto adapted for piano and orchestra. There were obvious reasons why such arrangements existed, not least because Beethoven desired his music to receive the widest possible dissemination.

Given this context, the recent discovery of an arrangement of the Fourth Piano Concerto for piano and string quintet should come as no great surprise. This reconstructed chamber version, commissioned by Beethoven’s patron Prince Lobkowitz, differs quite significantly from the original, particularly in the piano part which is much more elaborate, providing some startling additions of material, especially in the development section of the first movement. Despite the intimate scoring, the bravura writing of the revised piano part induces Robert Levin to deliver a much more extrovert account of the work than in his earlier recording of the Concerto. He is equally forceful in the trio adaptation of the Second Symphony, where the two string players offer gritty support. My only caveat here is a certain lack of charm and elegance in the slow movement. But this is an important release which deserves to lead a separate existence outside the confines of a boxed set.

-- Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1995 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Smith Square, London 
Length: 35 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Robert Levin performes here his own cadenzas. 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1995 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Smith Square, London 
Length: 27 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Notes: Robert Levin performes here his own cadenzas. 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1997 
Venue:  Colosseum, Watford, England 
Length: 35 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: Robert Levin performes here his own cadenzas. 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1997 
Venue:  Colosseum, Watford, England 
Length: 34 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Robert Levin performes here his own cadenzas. 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Smith Square, London 
Length: 35 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Notes: Robert Levin performes here his own cadenzas. 
6.
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B flat major, WoO 6 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1794; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1996 
Venue:  Colosseum, Watford, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 58 Secs. 
7.
Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Julian Clarkson (Baritone), Susannah Spicer (Alto), Constanze Backes (Soprano),
Angela Kazimierczuk (Soprano), Robert Levin (Fortepiano), Julian Podger (Tenor),
Robert Johnston (Tenor)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monteverdi Choir,  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1995 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Smith Square, London 
Length: 17 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Language: German 
8.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Watkin (Cello), Peter Hanson (Violin), Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1997 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London, England 
Length: 34 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Ludwig van Beethoven (1807) 
9.
Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy": Introduction by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Robert Levin (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1/1995 
Venue:  St. John's Church, Smith Square, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is the first of two alternate introductions improvised by Robert Levin included in this collection. 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.19: 1. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.19: 2. Adagio
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.19: 3. Rondo (Molto allegro)
Rondo in B flat for piano & orchestra, WoO6
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 majo, Op. 15: 3. Rondo . Allegro
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)
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58: 1. Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58: 2. Andante con moto
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58: 3. Rondo (Vivace)

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