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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 / Mario Galeani, Grzegorz Nowak

Beethoven / Geleani / Nowak / Rpo
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra   Catalog #: 13   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mario Galeani
Conductor:  Grzegorz Nowak
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos: No. 4 in G; No. 5 in E?, “Emperor” Mario Galeani (pn); Grzegorz Nowak, cond; Royal PO RPO SP 013 (74:11)

Given the multitude of recordings of these two warhorses of the concerto literature, it is always a pleasure to see one that offers a different perspective. The pianist, Mario Galeani, and his partner, conductor Grzegorz Nowak, work well together in that they both seem to agree on the more transparent textures that they bring out in the music—they Read more work more like chamber partners would in highlighting the more intimate moments. But they also share a certain drive, and in awkward moments of the G-Major Concerto, an inflexibility, an unwillingness to bend the basic metric beat, preventing the music from breathing. In addition, the G-Major Concerto suffers from being played in a bit too straightforward a manner for my taste. The dolce sections are simply played through—not savored—and so many sections of this concerto lose their special character. If the G-Major Concerto were the only piece on this album, I could not recommend it, but when listening to the “Emperor” concerto, I find the difference in the playing to be like night and day. The players do not just read through the piece, they inhabit it. Galeani seems to want to tell a story here, and he does so in a grand manner. His opening of the concerto is heroic. He takes the lead when necessary, but he is also not afraid to let others speak, commenting on, even adding to the story that he tells. One of the most beautiful sections in the recording shows the contrast between the more bombastic concerto-like playing and the more intimate chamber playing: Around 14:13 of the first movement’s Allegro , the piano becomes the background instrument for the melody that first appears in the horn, leading to a small scalar melody shared by the clarinets and a bassoon, with the strings just supplying a small chordal accompaniment and then quietly disappearing until the next downbeat. The feeling here is one of a piano and wind quintet, the strings almost barely perceptible. This back-and-forth between the wind instruments repeats, this time leading to a big piano solo, a fully fledged concerto moment in which Galeani leads the way into the next chamber-like section. At the end of his cadenza, he decrescendos , creating an upper-register solo piano sound like a small music box, with pizzicato strings delicately plucking on the offbeats. Though it is a small moment in the piece, it is representative of the fine attention to character that this team, at its best moments, brings off. The slow movement, while not attaining the otherworldly quality of certain teams (in particular, Rudolf Serkin with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelík (Orfeo d’Or 647053) comes to mind), they still create a beautifully shaped and heartfelt reading. The last movement brings the recording to a joyous and triumphant close—albeit with occasional detours into ländler-like sections. Though I wish that this team were as inspiring and moving in its reading of the Fourth Concerto, a Fifth Concerto of this caliber is well worth hearing. While the sound of the piano is a bit recessed at times, I find this only mildly distracting, and only at certain moments. So then, for the “Emperor” Concerto recommended; for the G-Major, best to stick with Schnabel/Stock.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mario Galeani (Piano)
Conductor:  Grzegorz Nowak
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Cadogan Hall, London 
Length: 34 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mario Galeani (Piano)
Conductor:  Grzegorz Nowak
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Cadogan Hall, London 
Length: 39 Minutes 8 Secs. 

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