Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ludwig van Beethoven; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concertos (Yevgeny Sudbin)


Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  1. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491: I. Allegro
  2. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491: II. [Larghetto]
  3. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491: III. [Allegretto]
  4. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37: I. Allegro con brio
  5. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37: II. Largo
  6. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37: III. Rondo. Allegro

Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Date: 2013
Label: BIS



Even if the catalogue was in a less parlous state than it currently is where recordings of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto are concerned, this newest addition to Yevgeny Sudbin’s Beethoven cycle with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra would be a thing to wonder at.

Bryce Morrison has written of ‘the mother-of-pearl sheen’ of Sudbin’s pianism. In none of the five concertos is fineness of touch more a sine qua non than in the fantasy-strewn and yet oddly elusive Third Concerto. Solomon has this quality in his still fresh-sounding 1956 HMV recording, as did Gilels, whose technical and imaginative mastery of the work Sudbin to some extent shares. Gilels was reliably partnered in the studio by Cluytens (11/54 – nla) and Szell (12/70 – nla). Neither collaboration, however, was on a par with what we have here from Vänskä and his Minnesota players, where the marriage of strength in exposition and sensitivity in accompaniment is more or less beyond compare.

The shaping of the concerto is well-nigh ideal. The first movement has pace and presence, out of which larger vistas naturally emerge; the great slow movement is rapt without in any sense being static; the finale is wonderfully crisp and gamesome. As befits the performance’s general sense of focus and discipline, Beethoven’s own cadenzas are used. The recorded quality is exceptional.

Would all was as well with the performance of Mozart’s C minor Concerto, a work which Beethoven himself greatly revered. Vänskä takes what in context is a suitably Beethovenish view of the music but overall there is little real meeting of minds here. In the first movement Vänskä drives and (given half a chance) Sudbin dreams – until, that is, Sudbin lets fly with a tempestuous cadenza of his own devising. This is as structurally and stylistically at odds with Mozart’s long and richly worked first movement as the cadenzas deployed by Curzon (a nicely judged essay by Marius Flothuis), Kempff, and the contrapuntally minded Brendel are not. In much the same way, the ornamentation which Sudbin chooses to add to the simple-seeming Larghetto is curiously banal; after which he gives a decidedly unburdened account of the predominantly minor-key finale. Here it is not the refinement of the playing which is in question. What is lacking is concentration of effect during Mozart’s emotionally charged traversal of the eight variations and coda.

To half-quote Dickens, this is the best of discs and the worst of discs, wisdom in Beethoven and in Mozart folly. But, rest assured, the Beethoven is not to be missed.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone

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Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, his great Mass the Missa solemnis and an opera, Fidelio. Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood and composed from the age of five. Till his death in Vienna, he composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. Mozart is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music.


Yevgeny Sudbin (born 19 April 1980 in Saint Petersburg, Russia) is a Russian concert pianist. He studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, the Purcell School and the Royal Academy of Music. Among his teachers are Christopher Elton, Murray Perahia, Leon Fleisher, Stephen Kovacevich, Dmitri Bashkirov, Fou Ts'ong and Stephen Hough. Sudbin's recordings for BIS have met with critical acclaim and are regularly featured as CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine or Editor’s Choice by Gramophone.


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