Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2

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Boris Giltburg, Piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko
Naxos 8.574151 (73:51)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote five piano concertos and they are among my all-time favourites. Here we have an eminently enjoyable release of the first two played by the much-lauded Russian born (1984) Israeli soloist, ably supported by one of this country’s finest orchestras under its Russian chief conductor.

The music is very approachable for it is nothing if not tuneful. The slow movement of Concerto No.1 in C Major has one of the composer’s loveliest melodies and the finale – in the words of Giltburg’s own expansive liner notes – is witty, driven, full of invention and humour, and sheer fun to perform. This aspect is captured in the smiling photograph of pianist and conductor on the front of the CD sleeve.

The Concerto No.2 in B Flat Major is spirited and stylish, and a lively rondo brings things to a fitting end. The final track on the disc, the jolly Rondo, Wo0 6, was Beethoven’s original version of this concerto’s last movement, which he chose to completely replace for reasons we know not.

Giltburg’s playing, on a Fazoli instrument, is admirable throughout and it is good to know that there will be two more releases of the remaining concertos in 2020.

At £7.99 (possibly cheaper online) this album, only recorded in May 2019, is what is nowadays a bargain buy – and an excellent way for light music lovers to discover the music of, arguably, the greatest classical composer ever.

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