Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today and once again served notice of his extraordinary talent in Summer 2011 when he conducted two concerts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam at the prestigious Lucerne Festival. This concert, available on DVD and Blu-ray features, amongst a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and Dvořák, the Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s majestic Fifth Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Etude in F major.
The film received a pasting from UK critics but as the soundtrack chooses from a vast archive of great performances, it’s possible to retrieve something from the experience. The opening track, the Grosse Fuge, is a bold choice given the wider audience for whom this soundtrack is aiming. It receives a magnificent performance from the Takács Quartet which is as finely attuned to the music’s jagged outcrops as its sheltered byways. The uninterrupted flow of the sweet and soulful second movement of the third Razumovsky is pure poetry in their hands. Ashkenazy gives a brilliant but never rushed performance of the finale to the early Sonata in C minor and his straightforward manner in the Arietta from Beethoven’s last sonata is illuminated by the very clear Decca recording. Haitink’s performance of the finale of the Ninth Symphony with the Royal Concertgebouw and a quartet of soloists led by Lucia Popp does not storm the heavens and I don’t ever recall being so aware of this movement’s proceeding by paragraphs. However, it would seem to have found a comfortable place in a well planned and wide-ranging celebration of Beethoven’s genius.
A leader of the movement for historically informed performances, Jos van Immerseel has been active in performances of Renaissance and Baroque music, but he has concentrated on piano music of the Classical and Romantic eras, performing and recording much of the keyboard repertoire on period instruments. This eight-CD box set from Accent contains van Immerseel's recordings from 1979 to 1986, played on a variety of original pianofortes and modern reproductions, and with period instruments in the works for ensembles.
The apparently insatiable Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam continues to gobble up standard and not-so-standard Beethoven with this 2009 disc featuring the composer's Fourth Piano Concerto and the piano transcription of his Violin Concerto, a recording that should please fans of the pianist's previous Beethoven recordings. Performing on a modern concert grand rather than the fortepianos he had favored in some earlier releases, Brautigam delivers readings that sparkle in the outer movements, sing in the central movements, and never resort to technical or emotional grandstanding to make their points.