Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 1

Article excerpt

Beethoven [DVD]

Piano Concerto No 1, Op 15

Martha Argerich pf

Orchestra of the 18th Century / Frans Bruggen

Fryderyk Chopin Institute [F] [DVD] NIFCDVD004

(92' * NTSC * 16:9 * DTS5.1 & PCM stereo * 0 * s)

Recorded live at the Witold Lutostawski Concert

Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, August 28,2012

Beethoven [DVD] [G]

Piano Concerto No 3, Op 37

Maria Joao Pires pf

Orchestra of the 18th Century / Frans Bruggen

Fryderyk Chopin Institute [F] [DVD] NIFCDVD005

(86'* NTSC * 16:9 * DTS5.1 & PCM stereo * 0 * s)

Recorded live at the Witold Lutostawski Concert

Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, August 28,2012

Both DVDs also contain 'The Breath of the Orchestra', a film by Kasia Kasica

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It is rare to hear celebrated pianists playing instruments from an earlier age, which is why these performances by Martha Argerich and Maria Joao Pires have a special interest. They were filmed on the same evening at the 2012 'Chopin and his Europe' festival in Warsaw. The instrument is a meticulously restored 1849 Erard of the kind which found favour with Chopin in the 1840s. It was also Liszt's preferred piano, understandably so since it was probably the finest instrument of its day before Steinway unveiled its mighty overstrung iron-framed grand in Paris in 1867.

This is not, then, an instrument of Beethoven's period. (For that you must go to Robert Levin's fine Archiv set of the concertos.) Beethoven did own an Erard, presented by the company to 'Mr Bethoffen a Vienne' in 1803, but that was a very different creature to this 1849 model with its metal frame, double escapement action and 7V4 octave keyboard.

Both DVDs carry a 40-minute documentary about the orchestra. Worthy as this is, I would have preferred a film about the Erard. With its powerful bass and the bell-like brilliance of its top registers (a tricky combination, unerringly matched by Pires in the wider tessituras of the C minor Concerto), not to mention a system of under-damping which requires fresh thinking about pedalling, it must be a challenge to play. Still, the end results as we have them here are a joy. …

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