Piano Concertos

Robert Levin’s 1995-1997 recordings of the Beethoven concertos with Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique brought us yet another step closer to hearing this music as Beethoven imagined it. Five different contemporaneous fortepianos (or copies) are used, which Levin plays with great authority. While their sound is considerably lighter and drier than that of a modern concert grand, they are capable of producing a wide range of dynamics, and their action allows for dazzlingly clean articulation of scales and passage work. Levin, one of the few fortepianists with a real virtuoso technique, takes full advantage. These are bold, exciting performances, and they are dashingly – if at times a bit aggressively – partnered by Gardiner and his period-instrument band. The recordings are full-bodied, fairly well balanced, and admirably detailed.


Label: Archiv Produktion ‎– 457 608-2
Format: CD, Album
Country: Germany
Released: 1998

Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, op.37
1 1. Allegro con brio 16:03
2 2. Largo 9:47
3 3: Rondo Allegro 9:42
Piano Concerto No.4 in G major, op.58
4 1. Allegro moderato 18:32
5 2. Andante con moto 5:24
6 3.Rondo: Vivace 10:54



1996 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”; Choral Fantasy Archiv Produktion
447771 CD

 Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major (“Emperor”), Op. 73
1 Allegro
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
2 Adagio un poco moto
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
3 Rondo, Allegro
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
Fantasia for piano, chorus, and orchestra (“Choral Fantasy”), Op. 80
4 Adagio –
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
5 Finale: Allegro – Meno Allegro (Allegretto) – Allegro Molto – Adagio Ma non Troppo – Marcia Assai V
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
6 No 01 of two alternative improvised introductions
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin
7 No 02 of two alternative improvised introductions
John Eliot Gardiner / Robert Levin



  • Performer: Maurizio Pollini
  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Claudio Abbado
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (July 8, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: 00289 477 7244

In this 2008 three-CD set, Deutsche Grammophon has re-released Maurizio Pollini and Claudio Abbado’s early-’90s recordings of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, a set of performances that have been available more or less continually since their first release. But this time they have added a 2006 recording of Claudio Abbado leading the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and three young soloists in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. For fans of either Pollini or Abbado, their smart, stylish, and supremely virtuosic performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker will be thoroughly familiar and probably already occupying a place of honor on their Beethoven shelf.

But that does not mean they will not want to at least audition Abbado’s Triple Concerto, his only recording of the piece. Working with pianist Alexander Lonquich, violinist Ilya Gringolts, cellist Mario Brunello, and the Venezuelan youth orchestra, Abbado obtains a sprightly and lyrical account of the concerto that emphasizes its chamber music inclinations over symphonic bombast and its dance-like tendencies over dramatic intensity. The question, however, remains: should those listeners who already have Pollini and Abbado’s concertos still pick up this set because of the new Triple Concerto? That is impossible to say: each listener will have to decide. For those who do not already have Pollini and Abbado’s concertos, however, the decision is clear: by all means, hear these performances. Deutsche Grammophon’s earlier digital sound is bright and clear. Its later digital sound is brighter and clearer, though just a tad more distant.


One of the greatest Beethoven Piano Concerto cycles of recent times, from Abbado and fellow countryman Maurizio Pollini, returns to the catalogue at an attractive price (3-for-2). A brand-new recording of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto fills out the package, with Maestro Abbado conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (about whom Abbado has said, “[This] young orchestra’s devotion to music [has] deeply impressed me.”) and a dynamic trio of soloists.

1 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 In C Major, Op.15 – 1. Allegro con brio – Cadenza: Ludwig van Beethoven
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
2 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 In C Major, Op.15 – 2. Largo
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
3 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 In C Major, Op.15 – 3. Rondo (Allegro scherzando)
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
4 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.2 In B Flat Major, Op.19 – 1. Allegro con brio – Cadenza: Ludwig van Beethoven
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
5 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.2 In B Flat Major, Op.19 – 2. Adagio
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
6 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.2 In B Flat Major, Op.19 – 3. Rondo (Molto allegro)
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado

Disc 2
1 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3 In C Minor, Op.37 – 1. Allegro con brio – Cadenza: Beethoven
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
2 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3 In C Minor, Op.37 – 2. Largo
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
3 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3 In C Minor, Op.37 – 3. Rondo (Allegro)
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
4 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 In G, Op.58 – 1. Allegro moderato – Cadenza: Ludwig van Beethoven
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
5 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 In G, Op.58 – 2. Andante con moto
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
6 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 In G, Op.58 – 3. Rondo. Vivace – Cadenza: Ludwig van Beethoven
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
Disc 3
1 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 In E Flat Major Op.73 -“Emperor” – 1. Allegro
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
2 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 In E Flat Major Op.73 -“Emperor” – 2. Adagio un poco mosso
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
3 Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 In E Flat Major Op.73 -“Emperor” – 3. Rondo (Allegro)
by Maurizio Pollini & Berliner Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado
4 Beethoven: Concerto For Piano, Violin, And Cello In C, Op.56 – 1. Allegro (Live)
by Alexander Lonquich & Ilya Gringolts & Mario Brunello & Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela & Claudio Abbado
5 Beethoven: Concerto For Piano, Violin, And Cello In C, Op.56 – 2. Largo – attacca: (Live)
by Alexander Lonquich & Ilya Gringolts & Mario Brunello & Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela & Claudio Abbado
6 Beethoven: Concerto For Piano, Violin, And Cello In C, Op.56 – 3. Rondo alla Polacca (Live)
by Alexander Lonquich & Ilya Gringolts & Mario Brunello & Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela & Claudio Abbado



96615f5cdc2bbd6b4e4b78f234874595Piano Concertos
Nos. 1 + 4
Lang Lang
Orchestre de Paris
Christoph Eschenbach
Int. Release 18 May. 2007
1 CD + 1 DVD
0289 477 6719 0
Lang Lang, the Chinese super-virtuoso pianist, can do anything he wants with the piano. The question is: what does he want to do? In this Deutsche Grammophon coupling of Beethoven’s First and Fourth piano concertos with Christoph Eschenbach leading the Orchestre de Paris, Lang plays the right pitches in the right rhythms — and plays them with complete command and total control — but everything else in his performances is up for grabs. Sometimes lines are legato; sometimes they’re staccato. Sometimes dynamics are pianississimo; sometimes they’re fortississimo. Sometimes tempos push forward; sometimes they pull back. Sometimes his right hand is louder than his left; sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes the sustain pedal is pressed firmly to the floor; sometimes it’s like the sustain pedal isn’t there at all. The problem is not so much that Lang interprets the music; performers have the right and the obligation to interpret the music they play. The problem is that Lang’s interpretations have passed willful and idiosyncratic and gone deep into self-indulgent. Aided and abetted by ace accompanist Christoph Eschenbach and supported and sustained by the accomplished Orchestre de Paris, Lang does whatever he wants with Beethoven’s concertos, whether the results are convincing is up to the listener. Christian Leins and Arend Prohmann’s recording from the Salle Pleyel in Paris is bright, clear, and deep.
Lang Lang delivers his first-ever Beethoven recording, a stunning reading of the extensive Concerto no. 4 and the jubilant Concerto no. 1. Even though he has performed this repertoire extensively in concert, Lang Lang waited for the perfect moment and the perfect team to record his first pair of concertos from these milestones of piano repertoire When Lang Lang embarked on his international career, Christoph Eschenbach became one of his first and most enthusiastic proponents – and a mentor and close friend ever since, Eschenbach was the ideal collaborator for Lang Lang’s first Beethoven recording. Nimbly supported by Eschenbach’s superb Orchestre de Paris, with its tradition of having been the first orchestra ever in France to perform music by Beethoven, Lang Lang’s performance gives further proof as to why he is one of today’s most acclaimed pianists
What a beautiful recording! Perhaps the most exciting thing about Lang Lang’s playing is that when he plays softly and lyrically, he doesn’t sound as if he’s holding back; when he opts to stomp and yell, it sounds equally natural. The First Concerto is played with lightness and bounce in the outer movements and is as tuneful as imaginable in the stunning second movement’s Largo. The Fourth Concerto is a whole other matter – mature Beethoven – and Lang rises easily to the occasion, playing with potency and handsome tone. The first movement makes us sit and admire his skill, and he is poetic and sensitive in the second movement. It would have been easy for him to run away with the final movement in a blaze of virtuosity, but he sticks to its classical outlines. These are superb performances, and the sonics are gloriously rich. –Robert Levine

MI0001153152Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15
1 1. Allegro con brio
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang
2 2. Largo
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang
3 3. Rondo. Allegro
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
4 1. Allegro moderato
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang
5 2. Andante con moto
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang
6 3. Rondo. Vivace
Christoph Eschenbach / Lang Lang




GTIN13: 0028948107100
Verschijningsdatum: 24. februari 2014
Aantal discs 1
Aantal tracks: 6
Speelduur: 66:56


  • 1 1. Allegro
    20:17 Li,Yundi/BP/Harding,Daniel Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 2 2. Adagio un poco mosso
    08:19 Li,Yundi/BP/Harding,Daniel Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • 3 3. Rondo Allegro
    10:16 Li,Yundi/BP/Harding,Daniel Beethoven, Ludwig van





Having established himself as an international star among piano virtuosos, Yundi Li has been steadily conquering the Romantic repertoire, recording many popular albums of the music of Chopin and Liszt, and making inroads on the works of Beethoven and Schumann. This 2014 release of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, “Emperor,” and Schumann’s Fantasy in C major is another huge release for Deutsche Grammophon, and the performances are characteristic of this Chinese pianist — energetic, propulsive, fierce, and brilliant, though also brash and hard-edged, with a metallic quality that is often clangorous. Yundi’s vigorous displays of technique are incisive and muscular, and his tone cuts cleanly through the Berlin Philharmonic’s orchestral accompaniment, so there is a real purpose to his style of attack, even if it sometimes seems unduly harsh. In quieter passages, Yundi pulls back and softens his tone to bring out the lyrical side of the music, but perhaps not enough to balance the ferocity of his playing in the loudest sections. Yundi’s solo performance of the Schumann Fantasy is less punchy, perhaps because he doesn’t have an orchestra to contend with. But it isn’t as warm or expressive as it needs to be, and the ebb and flow of the Fantasy seems to depend mostly on Yundi’s chimerical moods, instead of the music’s needs. Fans of this dynamic pianist will naturally want this CD, but they should hear different recordings of these pieces to discover other interpretations.


Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” (CD review)

Also: Schumann: Fantasy in C Major. Yundi, piano; Daniel Harding, Berlin Philharmonic. DG-Mercury Classics 481 0710.

If you’ve been following classical music these last few years, you’re no doubt familiar with the Chinese pianist Yundi. He was a musical prodigy who in 2000 became the youngest person ever to win the International Frederic Chopin Competition. After making several recordings with DG, EuroArts, Maxell, and EMI (now Warner Classics), he’s back with DG (in conjunction with Mercury Classics) for this recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, with no less than the Berlin Philharmonic and Maestro Daniel Harding in accompaniment.

Li Yundi, Yundi Li, or simply Yundi as he currently wants folks to call him, is enormously popular throughout the world, thanks mainly to his enormous technical prowess on the piano. It’s hard to argue with his virtuosity after hearing only a few notes of the Beethoven. His pianistic abilities are enough to leave listeners openmouthed in awe. The question one must ask about Yundi, however, is how much heart, thought, and soul he can communicate through his prodigious talent. That question, I’m afraid, is still open, no matter how much a person may love his technique. A while back I said of his Chopin Nocturnes recording that even though I liked it quite a lot, I wasn’t always as moved by the performances as I was those of a few other, more-established pianists like Arthur Rubinstein, Claudio Arrau, and Maurizio Pollini. I would say the same thing of his Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, again liking it quite a bit. Regardless, interpretation is largely a matter of taste, and everyone’s taste differs. Certainly, Yundi’s present reading of the “Emperor” Concerto is as exciting and entertaining as they come.

Anyway, Beethoven composed his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat, Op. 73, “Emperor,” in 1809, premiering it in 1811 and dedicating it to the Archduke Rudolf, his patron and student at the time. It was the composer’s final piano concerto, and it would go on to become one of his most-popular pieces of music. The work’s “Emperor” nickname, though, was not of Beethoven’s doing. In fact, he probably would not have liked it, given his disillusionment with the Emperor Napoleon. It was most likely Beethoven’s publisher who gave the piece the “Emperor” appellation, or possibly it was the fact that Beethoven first presented the music in Vienna at a celebration of the Austrian Emperor’s birthday.

No matter who’s playing the “Emperor,” the pianist must provide a big, bold opening Allegro, and here Yundi does so in spades, the whole performance full of energy, enthusiasm, and, above all, that virtuosity I mentioned above. Maestro Harding maintains some brisk tempos, yet they are never terribly fast or rushed, so both the piano playing and the orchestral accompaniment seem well within the Romantic tradition.

In the opening, where the piano enters immediately, Yundi is dazzling, his finger work a marvel to hear. This is a spectacular realization of the score, with the Berlin Philharmonic providing a sparkling accompaniment. Yet for all the ear-catching dazzle, it still left me wondering if Serkin, Kovacevich, Ashkenazy, Kempff, and others don’t provide a more penetrating interpretation. While Yundi surely maintains a riveting forward momentum, he hardly slows down enough to give us much more than that, and when he does relax, it seems almost perfunctory, as though the score simply obligated him to do so, without much real feeling in it. Exciting, as I say, yes, and for many listeners that’s no doubt more than enough. To which I say, fair enough; it is quite magnificent piano playing.

Although Yundi takes the Adagio a bit more briskly than any of the pianists I mentioned above, he nevertheless keeps the mood glowingly serene and effects a smooth melodic flow throughout. Again, however, the movement failed to touch me as much as other renditions have, the melancholy of the music somewhat eluding the pianist. Then Yundi makes a seamless transition into the final Rondo-Allegro, which may seem a little too calculated for some ears but worked fine for me. He ends things on an appropriately rollicking, heroic note.

German composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote his Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17 for solo piano in 1836, revising it for publication in 1839. The first movement is melodious and impassioned, the second movement grand and majestic, and the finale leisurely and contemplative. Beethoven was apparently the inspiration for Schumann when he wrote the Fantasy, along with Schumann’s longing for his beloved Clara. Yundi says of the work, “I wanted to create a sonority which echoes what Schumann called ‘drawing a veil’ over the music. What lies beneath the veil could be palpable, but one can never really tell what it is or what it looks like. This is the sense of the Fantasy–a grey area where reality and Romanticism co-exist. I hope the listener will be able to hear this complexity in my recording and pick up on this feeling of not being able to put one’s finger on something.”

I found Yundi’s realization of Schumann more to my liking than his Beethoven, with not just the music but even the piano sounding more resonant and glowing. That I continue to wish he would communicate a greater emotional range in his playing is probably attributable to my own sentimentality rather than any reflection on Yundi’s style. His Fantasy has a sweet, calming, uplifting effect on one’s spirit, and one can hardly complain about that.

Producers Christoph Franke (Beethoven) and Helmut Burk (Schumann) made the recording with engineer Rainer Maillard at Teldex Studios, Berlin in January and February 2014, and Deutsche Grammophon and Mercury Classics are jointly producing and distributing the disc. The sound in the Concerto is supremely clear and clean, every note reproduced in minute detail. It’s also just a tad bright and forward in the upper midrange, with only modest orchestral depth, but these are minor concerns. The Berlin Philharmonic produce a rich, lush, glorious sound, and it’s good to hear them miked at a moderate distance in a studio, without an audience present. The piano is dominant, of course, yet it isn’t so far forward that it spoils the illusion of realism. The piano in the Fantasy sounds, as I say, warmer and more resonant, a touch less hard and bright.


The coupling of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with Schumann’s epic Fantasie is, to say the least, ambitious. The ancient Greeks would have called it piling Pelion on Ossa. It’s also unusual, given that recording a concerto alongside an important work from the solo repertory is a practice which has generally been avoided. True, there is a link between Beethoven and the Fantasie, at whose heart lies a ciphered reference to the theme of the sixth of Beethoven’s songs An die ferne Geliebte (‘To the distant beloved’). But that’s a narrative connection, not a musical one.

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In 2000 the Chinese-born Yundi Li, as he then was, became the youngest winner since Maurizio Pollini of the International Chopin Competition. He has had a somewhat mixed career on record and this latest CD continues the trend. Of the two works recorded here, it is the Beethoven which is by some distance the more effectively realised. Yundi’s incisiveness of touch and certainty of manner is strikingly apparent in what is an unashamedly keyboard-led performance, the piano flatteringly lit by the engineers. All that is lacking is the registration of some of what Neville Cardus once called ‘those fallings away, those vanishings of tone which are Beethoven’s spiritual secret’.

The Schumann is not in the same league. One of the hastiest performances ever committed to disc, and one of the loudest, it doesn’t begin to engage the work as the riven confessional it so movingly is.

It would be unfair to take Yundi to task for the performance’s manifold failings – the muddled voicings, the insensitive phrasing, the crude accelerations – when it’s clear that, as yet, much of the piece is little more to him than notes on a page. As pianists as various as Richter, Curzon, Kempff, Arrau and Pollini have eloquently proved, there are many ways of approaching this torrential yet ultimately serene masterwork. This isn’t one of them.


Het leven & de muziek van Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) op Compact Discs, DVD's en Boeken

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