Best of 2007 Classical CDs ‘This thrilling performance was given in the Barbican last May when Sir Colin excelled himself in the power & nobility of his interpretation, with the LSO in terrific form, & the American soprano Christine Brewer sang with gleaming white-hot tone as Leonore. The final paean of joy at liberation is overwhelming. 1st-class recording quality.
This particular recording has been a favourite of mine since its initial release nearly 30 years ago. Stephen Kovacevich (or Bishop-Kovacevich. if you prefer) appeals as 1 of those pianists whose playing is rather forthright & precise, giving us here a rather lyrical presentation of the concerti full of grace & good demeanor. A little on the light side compared to those who pound out their Beethovens some would think.
Beethoven as a giant of the symphony and the sonata has somewhat overshadowed Beethoven as a creator of songs. On this varied and insightful recording, tenor Werner Güra performs a program featuring Adelaide and the first song cycle in history, An die ferne Geliebte, that proves Beethoven's lieder lacked neither appeal nor originality. Accompanist Christoph Berner plays a Streicher fortepiano of 1847 that is perfectly suited to both the songs and to his solo performance of the wonderful Bagatelles of Op.126.
The Beethoven quartets have always been at the cote of the Emerson Quartet's repertoire, and over the years it has honed its playing of these works to a fine degree. Here in this new set we encounter exaltation, immaculate playing and ensemble precision of awesome proportions (typically, first and second violinists often swap their roles). The Emerson is perhaps the best rehearsed quartet of our century. The playing is not only flawless technically, but reflects a careful study of the music, both formally and in the players' intense preoccupation with textual matters. The recording of this set is also spectacular.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 is also Beethoven in classical mode, using an orchestra that would have suited a Mozart piano concerto equally well. What marks it out from other classical works of the time are the solo outbursts in each of the first two movements. In the first, a contrapuntal cadenza with exciting modulations takes us into new and more individual territory, in which the keyboard becomes absolutely the composers focus; in the second we are treated to some powerful, improvisatory solos. The last movement, a rondo with a highly rhythmic main theme in 6/8, manages to introduce a descending chromatic progression towards the end and closes with the piano oscillating rapidly between major and minor chords (a light hearted conclusion to the piece, but one which taxes every pianist).