DEFINITIVE RECORDINGS
Ludwig Van Beethoven - Complete Piano Concertos


LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Complete Piano Concertos - Paul Lewis (Piano) - Jiri Belohlavek (Conductor) - BBC Symphony Orchestra - 3CD Set - Harmonia Mundi 902053/55

Over the last year or two, many fine sets of the Ludwig Van Beethoven Piano Concertos have seen the light of day. For example, Kissin/Davis on EMI, Pizzaro/Mackerras on Linn, Goode/Fischer on Nonesuch, Pletnev/Gansch on Deutsche Grammophon, to name a few. As I listened to them, and gave them each serious consideration for a review and recommendation to be posted on this website, something kept holding me back. Something kept telling me that a better interpretation was possible, and that it was just around the corner. Something kept telling me that there was a subtle problem with these recordings that I just couldn't put my finger on.

We've just turned that corner, and here is that foretold recording I was waiting for. As you are probably aware, Paul Lewis, an Alfred Brendel student, recently recorded all of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas to great critical acclaim and many awards. He is also a perfect accompanist as is demonstrated in his recording of Schubert's Winterreise. This dual role of concert soloist and accompanist is rarely so well achieved in a pianist. Jiri Belohlavek, conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, and now principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is well known as a fine opera conductor, a role in which he has mastered well the art of supporting and cooperating with the soloists, a role that serves him well in this instance. They work very well together. Their interpretation of these works is obviously a collaborative effort. There is no one here trying to upstage the other. By communicating so well with each other, they also communicate well with us. Their playing is like a narrative, a story being told and flows as such. Beethoven's music is eloquent enough without the need of special effects or flashy gestures. This is Beethoven straight, no chaser. It is lyrical as well as dramatic. Poetic as well as technical. A very fine traversal indeed of Beethoven's masterworks for piano and orchestra.

That subtle problem with the previous recordings just came to me. They were saying: "Listen to me!". This one simply says: "Listen to the music!"

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2010