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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-5

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 13, 2008
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15: 1st movement, Allegro con brio
  2. Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15: 2nd movement, Largo
  3. Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15: 3rd movement, Rondo
  4. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37: 1st movement, Allegro con brio
  5. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37: 2nd movement, Largo
  6. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37: 3rd movement, Rondo - Allegro

Disc: 2

  1. Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: 1st movement, Allegro con brio
  2. Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: 2nd movement, Adagio
  3. Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: 3rd movement, Rondo
  4. Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61: 1st movement, Allegro ma non troppo
  5. Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61: 2nd movement, Larghetto
  6. Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61: 3rd movement, Rondo - Allegro

Disc: 3

  1. Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58: 1st movement, Allegro moderato
  2. Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58: 2nd movement, Andante con moto
  3. Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58: 3rd movement, Rondo Vivace
  4. Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor': 1st movement, Allegro
  5. Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor': 2nd movement, Adagio un poco mosso
  6. Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor': 3rd movement, Rondo


Product Details

  • Performer: Friedrich Gulda
  • Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Horst Stein
  • Composer: L.V. Beethoven
  • Audio CD (May 13, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Brilliant Classics
  • ASIN: B0016KHATM
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,524 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Kudos to Brilliant for releasing Gulda's 1970 Beethoven Concertos with the VPO conducted by Horst Stein. Very straightforward performances, with excellent integration between the pianist and orchestra. Gulda's famous laser-like technique is on full display in these early to middle Beethoven works and he brings out all the joy and humor of these pieces. I haven't heard of Stein, but he is in sync with Gulda at every turn. All the performances are fine, and the Emperor being a standout, with Gulda on fire from beginning to end. The recordings are clear if lacking much bass; not a bad thing actually--just crank up the volume a little extra and enjoy. At times Gulda's piano, especially in the cadenzas, seems almost like a foretpiano in its tone and clarity. Kudos to Brilliant for making these recordings available again--get them while you can if you like Gulda's Beethoven, which I do very much. You can also catch Gulda playing and conducting (!) part of the last movement of the Emperor on Youtube with the Munich Philharmonic, I think from 1989. Great fun to watch him play and attempt to "conduct" at the same time--I think Beethoven would have loved it. Now if Brilliant could get ahold of Gulda's Diabelli variations that he recorded for MPS, that would complete his performances of Beethoven's great keyboard works.
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This is a set to really get into to study Beethoven's masterworks for piano and orchestra.

I must have heard dozens of Concerti cycles and say that Horst Stein's and Gulda's are the most homogenous set recorded. They are so attuned to each other and balanced that NEVER does the piano overtake the orchestra or vice versa!

But at the same time Gulda's playing is the most free and spontaneous I've ever heard...so much so that I often feel that these are live performances (which they are not)! He knows these pieces so "inside and out" that he plays as if he's improvising, full of humor and wit!

The Vienna Philharmonic plays smoothly and beautifully (as always), and the original Decca sound is very good.

It's a real treat to listen to these performances. A real bonus on this set comes with a piano rendition of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, by a virtual unknown pianist, conductor and orchestra! A magical performance that stops time!
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For Beethoven lovers, probably more than one set of complete Beethoven piano concerti are already on the shelves. But this one by Friedrich Gulda and Horst Stein with the Vienna Philharmonic would gladly grace the most pricky conoisseur's musical library.
From Schnabel to Kempff to Rubinstein to Serkin to Brendel to Bronfman to Aimard to Kissin to Lang Lang, multiple styles and infinitely differing interpretative approaches are being offered.
Gulda's Beethoven concerti are much more 'straightforward', naturalistic, vigorous and, above all, very very refined.
Unlike his solo sonatas, Beethoven's piano concerti offer a realm of composition that forecasts Brahms's integration of the solo and the tutti. Stein and Gulda perform here like hand in glove. The ethereal sounding VPO matches the soloist's and conductor's demand on virtually every turn. Gulda's musicality is well demonstrated in these recordings - his ability to respond and merge with the orchestra, tip-toeing on every interplay with utter balance and finesse. In this respect, this recording actually surpassed, IMHV, the set by Ferdinand Leitner and Wilhelm Kempff with the BPO. (Though may not be so with Kempff's set with van Kampen, of which I have NOT heard all five).
Gulda, controversies apart, was certainly a cult figure in Beethoven's works. It was a great shame that owing to personality clashes he had not collaborated much with big names like Herbert von Karajan, who virtually dominated the classical discography world, leaving Gulda's recordings of his brilliant performances to odd pieces and bits. This set of complete Beethoven piano concerti by Gulda is certainly one of the most valuable in terms of musical legacy by this far too underrated maestro of the keyboard.
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Supposedly it was Schnabel who said, I believe in reference to some Beethoven, that the music was greater than it could ever be played. But, in listening to these great, great performances, he might be wrong. Let's assume that one had great technical skills, a superb musicality, a perfect partner, a fabulous orchestra and an outstanding recording engineer. Then why couldn't the playing equal the music: it does here!!! I have listened to each of these concerti hundreds of times. I feel each time I play these renditions I'm hearing the music for the first time. My wife, who is somewhat versed in Classical music, but has a great ear, said "gee I really like that pianist". I thought up til now that Kempff Van Kempen were the best, and Kempff is astounding. But there is a greater sense of unity and poetry in the Gulda Stein versions. They simply sound right.
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