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Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki’s recordings for DG have revealed a musician of the highest calibre, but directing all five Beethoven concertos from the keyboard is still quite an ask for this young artist (born 1995). He opts for the longest cadenza in the First Concerto, crowning a first movement that can sag occasionally. The orchestra does not sound fully engaged, though the central Largo is better in this respect. There is plenty of suave phrasing to the finale; but again, it could be more unbuttoned.

The orchestra plays with more vigour in the Second Concerto’s opening, but Lisiecki reveals a tendency to over- beautify, and in doing so can sound false. The leanness of the orchestra in the Third Concerto is matched by Lisiecki’s transparency. The recording favours the piano in that the ASMF’s strings seem lacking in depth, even harsh up top. More successful is the central Largo, the piano’s initial statement sonorous, beautiful and profound – though even here there is a loss of tension.

Concerns with lack of body to the orchestral sound recur in the Fourth, undermining the lyric impulse and, in the second movement, lessening the contrast between strings and piano. Lisiecki’s low-pedal approach has some advantages in the finale, but ultimately it fails to take off. The Emperor is the finest performance of the set, but again the orchestral contribution can be harsh and distracting.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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