Jan Lisiecki / Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos

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Pianist Jan Lisiecki got the chance to record this cycle of Beethoven concertos through events that have propelled other young pianists to stardom: he was a sub for a star pianist, in this case, Murray Perahia, whose physical problems prevented him from performing. The five concertos were recorded live at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, and as if his not-fully-planned appearance was not challenging enough, Lisiecki leads the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields from the keyboard: the orchestra had already been booked for Perahia. The results, given all this, are pretty impressive. Lisiecki avoids the temptation to swing for the fences. His readings of the first two concertos are clean and straightforward, and his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, is even a bit understated. Lisiecki saves his fireworks for the two middle-period works. The Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, may be the strongest of the bunch: Lisiecki pushes the piano tempo in tension with the Dionysian rhythms to good effect. Sample the finale, where he holds the whole ensemble together unusually well. He has plenty of power in the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 ("Emperor"), and here too, the finale has a nice swing. Not a world-beater of a Beethoven concerto cycle, but certainly one that continues to give notice about Lisiecki.

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