Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra

Reviewed on Mon 17 Jun, 2013

It's some measure of Howard Shelley's achievement that he more than holds his own in such a hotly competitive field with this profoundly rewarding traversal of the five Beethoven piano concertos. With his immaculate touch, innate discretion and penetrating musicality, the characteristically self-effacing and sensitive Shelley masterminds a set of performances as shapely as they are humane. Directing from the keyboard, he draws a consistently attentive and fresh-faced response from the Orchestra of Opera North (there is much felicitous woodwind detail to savour throughout); indeed, the sense of collaborative commitment throughout is infectious. Elsewhere, the Choral Fantasy is essayed with particular aplomb, and in the Triple Concerto Shelley generates a tremendously compelling rapport with violinist Tasmin Little and cellist Tim Hugh. There's also a chance to hear the 13-year-old composer's fascinating first attempt at a concerto, which he left in piano score (and is heard here in Shelley's own idiomatic completion). Chandos's lustrous sound provides extra incentive to invest in this notable release.
–Andrew Achenbach