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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos Enhanced, Import

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Enhanced, Import, October 14, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

There are few living pianists so well-known and with such legendary status as Evgeny Kissin. A former child prodigy, Kissin came to international attention in March 1984 when, at the age of twelve, he performed Chopin's Piano Concertos 1 & 2 with the Moscow State Philharmonic. Since then he has gone on to win countless prizes and plaudits. He now brings his considerable talents to Beethoven's five magnificent piano concertos, recording them for the first time as a complete cycle.
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Disc 2
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Disc 3
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Digital Booklet: Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos
Digital Booklet: Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos
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Product Details

  • Performer: Evgeny Kissin
  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
  • Conductor: Colin Davis
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (October 14, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Enhanced, Import
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B001B1R1EK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,651 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAME on October 21, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I was a huge fan of Kissin's CD under James Levine of the Beethoven Second and 'Emperor' Concertos from 1997. Virtuosos can be problematic in the Beethoven concertos, which are spoiled by show-offy fireworks and star personality. At the same time, the usual dutiful treatment heard routinely in concert halls is deadly. Between them, Kissin and Levine injected an exciting balance of showmanship and serious musicality. The pianist's thrilling account of the 'Emperor' was the best I'd heard in decades.

That set the stage for this complete Beethoven cycle on EMI, Kissin's new label, along with a new partner, the renowned but rather staid Sir Colin Davis. I didn't want a repeat of Davis's broad, over-serious performances with Claudio Arrau on Philips. (Be prepared to slow down your metabolism.) Since these are two genuine artists, let me offer comments work by work:

Concerto #1: From the first note we hear middle-of-the-road Beethoven in a style untouched by period practice and, alas, few touches of youtful elan on Davis's part. Kissin does what he can with some sparkling panache in the solo part. He's assured in his phrasing of the slow movement's long melody but not very ethereal. The big surprise is the finale, which Kissin takes at jack-rabbit speed with dashing fingerwork. It's the first sign of temperament in the whole performance and very welcome. I like the twangy, buzzy tone of the piano's lower register as recorded by EMI, although the LSO sounds rather dull.

Concerto #2: Davis seems to find a touch of Mozartean elegance in the opening of this work, and Kissin romps along vigorously.
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It has been 11 years since Evgeny Kissin released his CD of Beethoven concertos with James Levine and the Philharmonia Orchestra. During the approximate period 2003-2007, audiences were able to share in hearing the evolution of his playing at sold-out performances around the world, and sometimes too of broadcasts of them. That culminated in the recording of this cycle at the Abbey Studios in London a year ago, with the London Symphony orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis.
The quality of the sound recording is clear and natural. Davis has long been recognized as one the finest conductors of our age, as exemplified by his superb Sibelius symphonies with the LSO. Here, Davis and the LSO provide elegantly spirited, sympathetic support for Kissin's landmark traversal of these concertos. It really is a wonderful musical partnership in every sense that will repay frequent re-listening.
Kissin's playing is deeply considered and carefully worked out. It is fresh without the defect of innovation for innovation's sake. His passage work is always crystal clear, never over-pedaled. His playing is always reassuringly tasteful without ever being dull. His playing is exemplary, moving with apparent effortlessness from gently soft and poetically slow to dazzlingly fast and witty exchanges with the orchestra, or magisterial statements of unimpeachable grandeur.
Kissin has increasingly been referred to by reviewers from London to Chicago as standing with such all time greats as Rubinstein, Richter and Horowitz, and such contemporary greats as Pollini, Argerich, Ashkenazy (sadly no longer playing) and Sokolov. This cycle confirms that stature for Kissin.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this because I was so taken with Kissin's recording of the 2nd and Emperor with Levine about a decade or so ago. If you don't want to read the rest of this review, stick with the Levine/Kissin and augment it with Perahia, Kovacevich, Ashkenazy or Brendel. There are so many great recordings available of these concerti, that pianist and conductor really need to illustrate why they bothered and why we should bother. After listening here, I can see no real reason for the recording other than EMI deciding it was time to update and churn out another cycle (the sound qulaity is superb, but that isn't enough). Kissin is fine--his tone is beautiful and he can display great delicacy and power within the space of a few bars. He is temperamentally most suited to the Emperor, but falls short in the 4th, which is the most slippery of them all (Arrau and Perahia are the ones for me here). Still, he's surprisingly versatile across the board and he seems to have really grown into Beethoven since he recorded with Levine.

The biggest problem is that I think he should have chosen a younger and more dynamic conductor. Davis was a wonder with Arrau (the 4th and Emperor from the 80s are miraculous) and there are many who still maintain, with some justification, that the Davis-Kovacevich set is still the best available overall. Here he's showing his mileage. There's just not enough of a sense of the orchestra and soloist firing across each others' bows. Remember another ill-fated coupling of an old, legendary conductor and a young soloist going at Beethoven that EMI did many moons ago? Klemperer-Barenboim anyone?
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