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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
Ludwig van Beethoven, Christian Gansch, Russian National Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
Genre: Classical
These are aggressive, somewhat eccentric readings of these concerti. They are given performances of real fire, and Pletnev takes interesting liberties with dynamics. Sudden passages of very loud or very soft playing ensure...  more »


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All Artists: Ludwig van Beethoven, Christian Gansch, Russian National Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev
Title: Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Original Release Date: 1/1/2007
Re-Release Date: 3/13/2007
Genre: Classical
Styles: Forms & Genres, Concertos, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Instruments, Keyboard, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 028947764151

These are aggressive, somewhat eccentric readings of these concerti. They are given performances of real fire, and Pletnev takes interesting liberties with dynamics. Sudden passages of very loud or very soft playing ensure that we will not be bored. At times he uses rubato the way an Italian tenor might, which is to say, interestingly but with dubious taste. There is a moment in the First Concerto's Largo that is taken so slowly it sounds as if something might have gone wrong with the CD. It appears that Pletnev has approached both of these works as exemplars of high Romanticism, whereas the first, in particular, looks back to Mozart. This is not to say that he does not play impeccably. His tone is always handsome and no matter how loudly he plays, he never distorts. Whether or not one agrees with his "re-interpretations," it is impossible not to be riveted. Pletnev says in the accompanying notes that his wish is that "every scream, every moment of joy" in the music "should be lived through as it's lived in our real lives." Those who know these concerti well might be surprised at how many screams Pletnev finds. The orchestra plays with great transparency under Christian Gansch. Nothing if not entertaining. --Robert Levine

CD Reviews

More than "somewhat eccentric"
N. Zhu | Florida | 01/01/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The review says these recordings are "somewhat eccentric." That's a bit of an understatement. These are the most mannered, self-indulgent performances of these concertos I have heard, live or on CD.

What's undeniable is that Pletnev is a remarkable pianist. His control over dynamics and tone and his ability to produce the subtlest shadings of sound are impressive, and there's no doubt that he can coax a lovely sound out of the instrument. The problem is that Pletnev doesn't put all this at the service of Beethoven's music; instead it gets in the way. Rather than let the music speak for itself, he bends it out of shape, applying rubato in a way that is wholly inappropriate for Beethoven and inserting all sorts of "adjustments" in dynamics and tempo that are not in the score. He cannot resist the temptation to slow down to enjoy a beautiful melody or to end a phrase with a diminuendo when none is called for. The result is an "interpretation" that sounds, well, interpreted. This is most definitely Pletnev first and Beethoven second.

I didn't want to come to this opinion of this recording; I love very much Pletnev's recording of the Scarlatti sonatas. But Beethoven's music calls for a more straightforward approach (which is not to say straightlaced!), and what was imaginative in Pletnev's Scarlatti playing has apparently become merely mannered here. The orchestral playing is of a good standard, and the recorded sound is excellent. But this is for fans of Pletnev only. Fleisher/Szell or Kovacevich/Davis would be a much better bet. For the price of this CD you can get the whole set, sans Pletnev's mannerisms."
Distinctive, Imaginative Playing from Pletnev and the RNO in
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 03/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Mikhail Pletnev has earned ample praise for his thoughtful, distinctive style of playing, never one to adhere strictly to time-worn traditions or the latest trends, such as period instrument-informed performance. Indeed, in the liner notes, Pletnev is quoted as saying that period instrument-informed performance is an idea that he regards as "ultimately self-defeating, because no great composer was ever satisfied with the instruments that he had at his disposal". Here he has embarked on a series of Deutsche Grammophon recordings recorded live late last year at the Beethovenfest in Bonn, Germany (Beethoven's birthplace) playing the entire Beethoven piano concerti cycle and conducting the entire Beethoven symphony cycle with the orchestra he founded, the Russian National Orchestra, which has earned ample worldwide acclaim inspite of its youth.

His playing of both Beethoven concerti is like none other that I've heard recently from the likes of Aimard, Brendel, Schiff, or Vogt to name but a few. While he adheres to Classical tradition only in soft, subtle playing of the keys where it is required, its mostly a fiery Slavic Romantic interpretation which we hear from him, in which he emphasizes loud, dramatic playing. His fiery, incandescent interpretation of the 1st Piano Concerto stands in stark contrast to a more elegant, refined interpretation I had heard earlier this month at Carnegie Hall from Martha Argerich accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit. Hers was a strictly Classical interpretation emphasizing the score's stylistic ties to Mozart's last, great piano concerti. In Pletnev's hands, the 3rd Piano Concerto receives a similar treatment, in which he emphasizes sudden changes in tempi and sound, such as in dramatic shifts between soft and loud playing, emphasizing a more Romantic connection to this work, than acknowledging its late Classical origins. While Pletnev adheres faithfully to the notes of Beethoven's scores, his style of playing is more improvisational, and thus perhaps more riveting, than other, more recent interpretations of both concerti that I have heard either live or in recordings.

I haven't heard of conductor Christian Gansch before, but he does an excellent job conducting the Russian National Orchestra in two performances that do acknowledge period instrment practice, but only to a certain extent, especially in the lean textures articulated by the wind and string sections. Indeed critic David Gutman observes in the liner notes that the Russian National Orchestra "combines lean-toned intimacy with darker Slavic sonorities. The authenticity sought is emotional, its only requirement to make the music live again for us in the here and now."

Needless to say the sound quality of this CD is superb, up to the usual high standards one expects from Deutsche Grammophon, even though this CD is from a live concert performance. I eagerly await the release of the rest of Pletnev's Beethoven piano concerto cycle, and his turns at the podium in conducting Beethoven symphonies. But I would recommend this CD as a viable, dramatic alternative to those interested in hearing a splendid recent recording of these two Beethoven piano concerti, not as a primary recommendation, even though it still earns high praise for me. For primary recommendations, I would recommend instead recordings made by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Claudio Arrau (either of his Philips cycles), Alfred Brendel (especially from his first or second Philips cycles), Murray Perahia, and Andras Schiff."
An imagiinative triumph for Pletnev
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Listening to the thousand-and-one tinkerings that Mikhail Pletnev makes in the simple Concerto #1 of Beethoven, I was reminded that this quirky artist feels free to embellish any composer at will. One finds this trait either irritatingly intrusive or delightfully imaginative. There are days when I can't decide which. Here the overall results are undeniably appealing, however. We know that Beethoven improvised freely at the keyboard, and although Pletnev doesn't add new notes, he improvises the feeling of the music, tending toward a romantic sprightliness, if I can put it that way. He makes a phrase erupt, then whisper. He races around corners where other pianists don't realize that corners exist.

It's helpful that most of these expressive turns are on the micro scale. You won't hear gross distortions, and Pletnev's rubato isn't all that extreme (it comes close, though). The Concerto #3 is bigger and more romantic than the First, an entry into mature Beethoven, but Pletnev is light and playful in both works. I don't know his accompanist, Austrian conductor Christian Gansch(a 48-year-old former violinist with the Munich Phil. who became a DG recording executive), but he's a find. Here in a lve concert from the Bonn Beethovenfest in 2006, he gets lovely, imaginative playing from the Russian National Orch. Al tempos are within normal range, and DG's sound is excellent despite a somewhat clangy paino.

It all adds up to a highly enjoyable reading of two familiar works that Pletnev hears in unfamiliar ways and executes with his customary dash and elan."