François-Frédéric Guy

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano & Wind Quintet

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This performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist François-Frédéric Guy and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, conducted by Philippe Jordan, is notable for its elegance and rhythmic springiness. This is not a heavily Romantic reading; the performers emphasize the concerto's Classical delicacy and briskness, with special attention given to the integrity of the individual lines. Both pianist and orchestra approach the first movement with crisp precision, but their performance is rhythmically limber and never stiffly mechanical reserved. There is plenty of passion here, and the cadenza is effusively lyrical. The contrast between the piano and orchestra in the dialogue in the second movement is especially dramatic, as the piano seductively draws the orchestra, with its brusque interjections, down to its own level of serenity and intimacy; it's a surprisingly sensual effect. The third movement is perhaps played the most conventionally, without the clearly delineated distinctiveness of the first two movements, but Jordan brings a strong element of playfulness to the composer's striking rhythmic juxtapositions, and Guy's playing of the cadenza sounds especially spontaneous.

Guy and soloists from the orchestra bring the same clean approach to the composer's early Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16. The soloists play with extraordinary finesse and polish, particularly hornist Antoine Dreyfuss, but here, as in the Concerto, a spirit of playfulness also prevails. The sound is exceptionally clear, allowing details of orchestration to really sparkle. In general, the balance is good, but in some of the denser, louder passages the piano gets swallowed up by the orchestra in the Concerto.

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