Boris Berezovsky / Thomas Dausgaard / Swedish Chamber Orchestra

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 'Emperor'; Choral Fantasy

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The Beethoven recordings made by conductor Thomas Dausgaard with his 38-player Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro in the early 2000s have resurfaced in the mid-2010s, perhaps because of a new vogue for modestly sized Beethoven into which they fit perfectly. Dausgaard falls into the group of conductors who have applied historical-performance techniques to modern-orchestra readings, clarifying textures, weeding out vibrato, and generally offering crisp, straightforward but detailed readings from which Romantic expression has been removed. A minimalist performance of the most maximal of Beethoven's piano concertos, the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 ("Emperor") might seem a tall order, but this recording has the virtues of the others in Dausgaard's series and can be recommended as long as you know what you're getting into (those looking for a mighty dialogue between giants should go elsewhere). One attraction is the exceptional sensitivity of the interplay between Dausgaard and pianist Boris Berezovsky, who often supplies a marvelous dancing quality when Dausgaard opens up the texture. Another is the presence of the Choral Fantasy in C major, Op. 80, rarely paired with the "Emperor" or any of the other piano concertos, but entirely relevant inasmuch as what you have here are the last two works for piano and ensemble Beethoven wrote. It fits here better than with the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, despite essentially sharing a tune with that work. Recommended for those who enjoy Dausgaard's somewhat idiosyncratic approach.

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