Beethoven: Concertos pour piano no. 4 et no. 5 "L'Empereur"

Maurizio Pollini / Karl Böhm

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Beethoven: Concertos pour piano no. 4 et no. 5 "L'Empereur" Review

by Stephen Eddins

Maurizio Pollini with Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic deliver masterful performances of Beethoven's two last piano concertos. From the first notes of Pollini's forceful entry at the opening of the Fifth concerto, he establishes the piano's authority, and the orchestra responds to his challenge with passion. Pollini's playing throughout is spectacularly assured and athletic. Böhm treats the concerto as a living organism and his reading is notable for the suppleness of his tempos. While the very grand first and final movements contrast touchingly with the serenity and earnest poetry of the second movement, the entire performance is suffused with the nobility that can make this concerto a transcendent experience. The emotionally complex Fourth concerto receives an appropriately delicate performance. Both pianist and conductor emphasize the concerto's ethereal and mysterious elements rather than its Romantic passion, without sacrificing its drama. Pollini plays with fluency and poetry. The recordings, apparently made at live performances, contain occasional distracting extraneous noises, such as page turning and a percussion instrument being bumped. Otherwise, the recorded sound is clear and bright, with excellent balance between the soloist and orchestra. The program notes are in French.

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