Boris Giltburg / Vasily Petrenko

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2; Rondo, WoO 6

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Pianist Boris Giltburg has been known for Liszt and other virtuoso repertories, and if you took some of the pushed-tempo transitions in the opening movement here of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, you might think he was trying to shoehorn in some virtuosity in pieces that are generally not among Beethoven's more technically difficult. Of course, Beethoven was a virtuoso, too, and Giltburg's interpretations hang together. Sample that movement and see how you like Giltburg's reading: it's energetic, technically attractive, and forward-moving. Another strong feature is that Giltburg coordinates precisely with the Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. The orchestra's square, rather staccato, phrasing seems a bit odd during the orchestral expositions, but then you realize that it was done to generate maximum contrast with Giltburg's restless, explosive playing. In general, the Piano Concerto No. 1, actually Beethoven's second numbered concerto, is stronger here; the very Mozartian Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19, gives Giltburg less opportunity to shape the music in his way. A final attraction here is the Rondo in B flat major for piano and orchestra, WoO 6, which shares much with the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 2 and was probably intended to fill that role until Beethoven came up with the present simpler and irresistibly catchy movement. This release inaugurates a series by Giltburg of not only the five Beethoven piano concertos but all 32 piano sonatas, marking the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. The recording here is from the Liverpool Friary, the Philharmonic's rehearsal space; it is clear enough but rather remote, and one hopes that it won't be home to the entire series.

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