Louis Schwizgebel

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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Into the crowded field containing pairings of Beethoven's first two piano concerto come pianist Louis Schwizgebel (formerly Schwizgebel-Wang) and conductor Thierry Fischer, leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They make a mark precisely by not treating these two Beethoven concertos as a pair, but as distinctive entities as disparate as any pair of early piano sonatas might be. The Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, was actually composed after the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19, but in the hands of Schwizgebel and Fischer, who shape both works with an unusual depth of dialogue, it is the later first concerto that really looks back to Mozart. The first-movement orchestral exposition, under Fischer, even evokes Mozart's Paris works in its smooth lightness, answered by Schwizgebel with a kind of relaxed wit that spins out into the longer Beethoven cadenza. The Piano Concerto No. 2, by contrast, is ebullient, even rollicking, with the finale taken at a brisk clip that sets Schwizgebel's sharp accents against the LPO's winds in a wiry, enthusiastic finale. These are both distinctive Beethoven performances at a very high level, and they apparently mark the beginning of a Beethoven cycle that ought to offer much to look forward to.

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