The best modern recording of the Beethoven concertos.
Lance Swanson | North Branch, MN USA | 02/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was a bit leery about investing in another set of the Beethoven concertos, having bought one already and been very disappointed. The price was bargain basement though so I took a chance. Boy am I glad I did. What Christian Zacharias and Hans Vonk do with these 5 warhorses is magical.
I'll start with concertos 3 and 5. I've always considered these two to be the most tricky to perform well. To me they're the most lush(?) of the set. I've heard so many recordings where in the many sweeping motives the soloist seems determined to define every note and ignore the big picture of the rushing waves of sound coming at you. On the other hand, I've also heard ones where articulated passages are muddy and just plain lazy. None of that is heard here. Zacharias knows exactly the right style to use and where to use it.
As for 1, 2, and 4, apply that same stylistic precision and you can pretty much make your own judgement as to how they come across. Perfection.
The orchestra gives us the perfect background for the works. Stepping up to the center stage when needed, and providing the perfect amount of support for the soloist when required to do so.
So, all in all, this set is worth every penny. I'd have even paid more for it had I known how great it is. Luckily, we don't have to since it's offered at such a great bargain."
Don't Miss Out on This One ...
Ray | 04/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are new to either Beethoven, his piano concertos, or to classical music in general, run, don't walk, to purchase this set of the complete recordings of Beethoven's great piano concertos performed by Christian Zacharias and the Dresden Orchestra. If you are a classical music connoisseur, or a Beethoven aficionado, and you haven't yet examined this set, I give the same advice.
The Beethoven piano concertos are some of the greatest components of the classical music repertoire. In fact, if you have never examined these pieces, what you will find is that Beethoven's piano concertos are nearly full-bodied symphonies with the piano integrated in as a framing device. To listen to these pieces is to be amazed at the breadth and scope of Beethoven's compositional genius, and it's a rare fellow who can find many pieces in the catalogue that can compete with them. These five works, all laying firmly within the standard definition of the "classical" era, are stupendous achievements, no doubt some of the pinnacles of Beethoven's compositions, a group already studded with numerous works of his genius.
There are numerous sets of the complete recording cycles of Beethoven's piano concertos, many of which are superb in their own right. For example, Alfred Brendel's recording cycle of the pieces should be in most any Beethoven collection, and Murray Perahia's recordings of the same are a "no brainer" to recommend to virtually anyone. Both of these performers, having established themselves through decades of critically acclaimed performance, are considered "premier" performers, and a simple listen to either of them easily confirms these appellations. Don't miss out on either of them.
Nevertheless, this set by Christian Zacharias and the Dresden Orchestra, inexplicably priced at under $15, should be the first compilation in your set. It's not just that the price is right: it's that the performance and the recording quality of this set ranks amongst the best of those available today, and even at three times the price, I would still be able to recommend it.
Zacharias' playing is precise yet emotionally fulfilling, and there is a silky elegance to his "key tickling" that is impossible to ignore. We almost imagine this performance is second nature to him, although it is probably much more true that he is exercising incredible effort and discipline to correctly execute the compositions. We don't just listen to the pieces: we are drawn along a sprightly and elegant path through the pieces, and by the time we exit concerto five, we feel we have been carried on wings for the bulk of our journey. The Dresden Orchestra also does a wonderful job of exactingly executing the work while allowing Schiff to serve as the central piece, and there's not a missed note or off beat anywhere either in the orchestra or the pianist.
At under $15, all we can do is scratch our heads and wonder how recording companies make such decisions. Is it because this is a recording from the 1980's? Perhaps, but there are plenty of recordings from those years still fetching premium prices, and that even for single discs. Here, we have three disks with the entire cycle, and still we are paying a meager four dollars per disc. But why waste your time scratching your head? Better that you rather spend your time to click and purchase the set so you can get to enjoying it. I'd be totally surprised if you didn't find the set as enjoyable as I do. Five stars for performance, five stars for price.
Mentioned in the review above:
Perahia: Beethoven: The Five Piano Concertos
Brendel: Beethoven: The Five Piano Concertos
Henry | New Preston CT | 12/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was looking for a CD of the Beethoven Concertos and I purchased this because of the excellent reviews and the low price. I am thrilled with this recording. It is full of youthful exuberance and is a delight to listen to at every turn. The pianist has an amazing dexterity and fluidity that I have to say is dazzling and the orchestra is excellent as well. I haven't found a recording that I have enjoyed listening to more in some time.
I observed that the dates of Beethoven's life are incorrect in the liner notes! Or maybe I was missing something. With such an excellent playing of these masterworks of Beethoven, I can forgive such an error but someone must have been asleep when proofreading!
I highly recommend this recording!