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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos 3 & 4 (Boris Giltburg/RLPO)

Boris Giltburg (piano); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piano Concertos Nos 3 & 4
Boris Giltburg (piano); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Naxos 8.574152   69:59 mins


In the sleeve note, Boris Giltburg writes that he felt electrified by hearing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 as a child, grabbed by its darkness and drama, but later came to realise that it was mostly a lyrical work. His performance on this release – which completes a rewarding Beethoven concerto cycle with Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – holds these aspects in perfect balance, as two stages on a continuum rather than flipside opposites.

Giltburg doesn’t deal in pianistic thunder but in long phrases and in unsignposted details of articulation, and in both concertos he and Petrenko generally draw out the contrasts and drama with a certain amount of subtlety. It’s a striking moment, therefore, when in the slow movement of the Concerto No. 4 the orchestra’s strings sound suddenly so belligerent, the piano floating serenely above them. The cadenza to this movement, with its chromatic gestures around a sustained trill, registers as jarringly as Giltburg intends, yet even here he doesn’t resort to harshness of tone for effect, or even to a real fortissimo.

Petrenko has the orchestra sounding rich and substantial but that doesn’t preclude some crisply exuberant playing in the finales, or some appealingly open-sounding woodwind, especially the clarinet and bassoon solos in the last movement of No. 3. This solid recording may not be quite distinctive enough to stand out in a crowded field; but if it were the only one in your collection you wouldn’t be doing at all badly.


Erica Jeal