Till Fellner / Kent Nagano / Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 4 & 5

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As Austrian pianist Till Fellner has aged, his performance style has naturally matured. This CD of Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth piano concertos shows Fellner is still impetuous but more commanding, still virtuosic but less demonstrative, and still playful but less prankish and more thoughtful. His touch is generally light, as in the Fourth's airy closing Vivace, and often legato, as in the Fifth's lyrical central Adagio, but he displays plenty of power in the Fourth's dramatic Andante and the Fifth's mighty opening flourish. Fellner's control of the works' large forms is complete; he always knows where he's going and how he's going to get there, so the listener does, as well. Yet Fellner keeps it exciting; the transition from the Fifth's central Adagio to its closing Rondo is wonderfully stirring. Almost as interesting as Fellner's performance is Kent Nagano and Montréal Symphony Orchestra's performance of the so-called accompaniment, "so-called" because the accompaniment here is often as assertive as the soloist. This is entirely appropriate for Beethoven's music; in the Fourth's central Andante, the orchestra is an equal, and at times, dominant partner, and throughout the Fifth it competes with the soloist for dominance. Yet so characterful is the Montréal musicians' playing and so individualistic is Nagano's conducting that the competition is a friendly one, a contest of two heroes that can only be won when they strive together. Captured in smooth and creamy digital sound by ECM, this disc is well worth hearing by anyone who likes the works and wants to hear brilliant new recordings of them.

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