Beethoven: Piano Concertos – No 1 in C major, Op 15; No 5 in E flat major, Op 73 (Emperor)

Reviewed on Mon 03 Jul, 2017

It is the slow movement of the Emperor concerto, enthralling in its sensitivity of utterance, that stands out from outer movements here.

How do you interpret Allegro con brio in the first movement of No 1? Carl Czerny, presumably with Beethoven’s approval, suggests the metronome marking crotchet = 176. Alfred Brendel & Simon Rattle choose 163, Lars Vogt 151. It’s still a fast clip, numbers denoting the beats per minute, variations in tempo judged by the rhythms within those beats; but Vogt doesn’t feel the need for much elasticity. Yet it is an appealing performance of a dynamism that is carried into the finale, interspersed with a Largo breathing an air of quieter magnitude, though paced closer to Andante as Czerny recommends. And it is the slow movement of the ‘Emperor’, enthralling in its sensitivity of utterance, that also stands out from outer movements here portrayed with little re-creative fervour, emphasising a drawback to Vogt’s dual role of soloist and conductor. Sound and balance are very good, but why bring the piano forward for some of the cadenzas?
–Nalen Anthoni