Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ludwig van Beethoven, Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra|
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 [Germany]
Listen to Samples
Flashes of insight in a pedestrian setting
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"My worry about Pollini collaborating with Abbado is that two worlds are clashing -- Pollini is a masterful Beethoven interpreter who commands every phrase, while Abbado has ground out a string of pedestrian Beethoven symphonies over the years, first from Vienna and then, as here, from Berlin. Both qualities emerge in this pairing of the First and Second Piano Concertos. If you tuned in at the first movement cadenza of Concerto #1, where Pollini sounds energized, sparkling, and alert, you'd think this must be a great performance. But if you tuned in for the orchestral tutti that begins the movement, Abbado would strike you as foursquare and dull. I suppose what holds these two musicians together is a shared sense of refinement and elegance (they are more exciting and spontaneous in concert).
As it happens, I don't value classical poise in the Beethoven concertos, and when Pollini hits a movement like the finale of the Ffirst Cto, which cries out for wit, lightness, and high spirits, what I hear is dynamic but rather lifeless playing. Admittedly, it takes an extra effort to find late Mozart in early Beethoven, but I don't hear Pollini-Abbado really extending themselves. This is a first-rate product polished at the factory. The story repeats itself in the Second Cto., although there's a bit more flexibility in the opening tutti. As before, Pollini is capable of floating an elegant line with flashes of energy, but his stylishness keeps being dulled by Abbado's innate restraint and good manners. Abbado's careful shaping of the slow movement of Cto. #2 feels fussy and lacking in spontaneity. The unbuttoned finale gives the soloist a chance to romp, but Pollini is too disciplined to cut loose, and the result is expert but emotionally flat.
These readings were so admired by some critics, especially in Europe, that they rose to first choice among the competition, but I think that opinion hlds good only if you like patrician restraint as a basic Beethoven style, and I don't."