Notes and Editorial Reviews
How daringly Beethoven explores the remote key of E for the slow movement – and how sonorous it is in Lupu’s hands! And how cleverly Beethoven plunges back into a restless C minor for the finale – and how quickly Lupu responds!
The Third Concerto is quintessential Beethoven, recalling as it does Mozart’s Piano Concerto (K491) in the same key, of which Beethoven famously declared "we shall never be able to do anything like that!" The two pieces share the same anxiety and intensity, even though the younger composer was yet to experience the desolation we hear so uncomfortably in K491. Beethoven is his own man, though, and time and time again breaks away from convention. How telling the pianissimo timpani are as
the soloist winds up his cadenza in the first movement – and how atmospheric it is in this recording, with the hard drumsticks distinct but distant behind that blanket of strings. How daringly Beethoven explores the remote key of E major for his hymn-like slow movement – and how sonorous it is in Lupu’s hands! And how cleverly Beethoven plunges back into a restless C minor for the finale – G sharp, remember, is the same black note as A flat – and how quickly Lupu responds!
Lupu’s Third was, as I’ve already said, his first** Beethoven Concerto recording – made in London, and (the LSO being a notch or two above the Israel Philharmonic as an ensemble) perhaps the better for it! Even so, a high degree of polish is no substitute for real characterisation: at the end of the day, it is the slightly anonymous orchestral contribution which limits the effectiveness of these performances. Regrettably, the same is true of Mehta (in varying degrees) in the other issues in this series.
The 32 (very short) Variations on a (not very) Original Theme – also in C minor – are written (or rather they’re best regarded as having been written) in one long paragraph. Lupu plays them with fire and colour, and (most importantly) ploughs through all the double bars with far-sighted determination. The approach works well.
The CD booklet declares the running time to be 49' 23": they probably hoped you wouldn’t notice! In fact, there are only a miserly 47' 20" here: even Mozart’s biggest Concerto – the one without which Beethoven’s Third may never have seen the light of day – could have been accommodated here, instead of the Variations. What are they thinking about, offering us such small portions?
-- Peter J. Lawson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Radu Lupu (Piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria
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