Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 4, Op 58

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 4, Op 58

Article excerpt

Beethoven

Piano Concerto No 4, Op 58 (a). Symphonies No 3, 'Eroica', Op 55 (b); No 7, Op 92 (c). Overture 'Coriolan', Op 62 (d) (a) Wilhelm Backhaus pf Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Hans Knappertsbusch Orfeo mono (B) (2) C901162B (139' * ADD) (acd) Recorded live at the Musikverein, Vienna, January 17,1954; (b) Broadcast performance, February 17,1962

Here is Beethoven, Viennese Beethoven, under a conductor who remained impervious to all fads and fashions, save those of the post-Wagnerian age in which he was raised. Thus the Eroica Symphony emerges as a slow-moving epic, a looming edifice seen through a glass darkly. Had Beethoven been privy to the events of the 20th century, Knappertsbusch seems to suggest, he wouldn't have thought civilisation much improved. Cause for rejoicing there was not.

The performance of the Eroica dates from 1962. The other three items chronicle a concert Knappertsbusch conducted in the Vienna Musikverein in January 1954. The Coriolan Overture has been moved to the start of disc 2, where it prefaces the Eroica: a suitable juxtaposition since, in Knappertsbusch's reading, it is a work of similar temper, the theatrical and philosophical elements held in the nicest possible balance.

It also means that disc 1 begins with the opening of the Fourth Piano Concerto, magically annunciated by Wilhelm Backhaus on one of his beloved Bosendorfers. Backhaus was one of the Fourth Concerto's finest exponents, though rarely written of as such on this side of the English Channel. …

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