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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos [Enhanced]

Ludwig Van Beethoven Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 39.05 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos + Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 2, Op. 18; Six Etudes-tableaux
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Disc: 1
1. I. Allegro con brio:- Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15
2. II. Largo:- Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15
3. III. Allegro:- Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15
4. I. Allegro con brio:- Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19
5. II. Adagio:- Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19
6. III. Rondo: Allegro molto:- Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19
Disc: 2
1. I. Allegro con brio:- Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op. 37
2. II. Largo:- Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op. 37
3. III. Rondo (Allegro):- Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op. 37
4. I. Allegro moderato:- Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 [cadenzas unspecified]
5. II. Andante con moto:- Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 [cadenzas unspecified]
6. III. Rondo (Vivace):- Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 [cadenzas unspecified]
Disc: 3
1. I. Allegro:- Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat 'Emperor' Op. 73
2. II. Adagio un poco moto:- Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat 'Emperor' Op. 73
3. III. Rondo: Allegro, ma non troppo:- Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat 'Emperor' Op. 73

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On s'habitue. Sept. 22 2009
Format:Audio CD
Quoique sans caractère particulier à première écoute, ces interprétations sont de très haute qualité. Le jeu de Kissin est raffiné et sans esbrouffe, et l'accompagnement est à l'avenant: délicat mais efficace. Une intégrale qui gagne à être réécouter encore et encore.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a landmark cycle not to be missed Oct. 20 2008
By Peter B. Behr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
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. Not only do I urge you to buy this set too, but also to compare the playing on it with those of the other masters, both at his age - Kissin was 35 when he recorded this cycle - as well as in their later recordings. The comparisons will certainly make for fascinating listening for you, and may well surprise you too, and result in your revising some of your existing musical judgments.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kissin is dynamic and involved, Davis a bit foursquare Oct. 21 2008
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
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. The two are a minute slower in this movement than in Kissin's 1997 account, but they actually perform the slow movement and finale faster by a minute each, so one can't generalize about Davis losing vitality in his eighties. The Adagio feels more like an Andante; happily, conductor and soloist are both fervent and lyrical. The finale is a breakaway Allegro with rather clipped phrasing. In all, a considerable improvment over the First. (I even hear some swells in the orchestral part that remind one of 'authentic' style.)

Concerto #3: This and the Fourth Concerto bring us into fresh territory, two masterpieces new to Kissin's discography. For me, the best Thirds make a total break from the world of Haydn and Mozart, plunging us into middle-period Beethoven. Davis feels a bit cautious on that account, but Kissin compensates with heroic playing where he can -- he's certainly more galvanic than Pollini with Abbado. The forthright, clean playing of the piano part doesn't scale the heights, but it's vry good. Kissin establishes real atmopshere as he begins the Largo, a congenial place for a Chopin specialist to shine. He shows more nuance in his phrasing than in the first two concertos, and Davis responds lovingly. The Rondo Allegro finale is alert and exciting, but Kissin misses Serkin's leaping imagination. That's the only disappointment in an otherwise satisfying reading that should appeal to both classicists and romantics.

Concerto #4: Often dubbed the most feminine of the five concertos, to me the Fourth is actually marked by its lyrical invention, an unceasing opportunity for the soloist to soar. At 20 min., Davis and Kissin take the first movement broadly, and I wish the solo entry of the piano weren't so timid (unexpected blandness from Kissin). Sadly, the long orchetral tutti that follows is mush. Serkin owned this piece because he didn't soften the line but kept it dynamically moving and changing. At least Kissin's passagework is vigorous, but Davis keeps sleepwalking. The Daniel-in-the-lion's-den byplay of the slow movement is handled middling well. Davis isn't enough of a lion, and Kissin's quiet calmness doesn't go beyond that. The breathless bridge to the finale, which should touch the hem of heaven, doesn't quite. The finale itself comes off well, with dazzling and totally effortless fingerwork by Kissin, probably the most assured I've ever heard. But the overall impression is of opportunities missed -- the collaboration shouldn't have been so tepid..

Concerto #5: Virtuosos who feel hemmed in by the earlier concertos long to cut loose in the 'Emperor,' as well they should. Thankfully, Davis provides a vigorous platform, adopting the same tempos as Levine in Kissin's earlier recording. The pianist doesn't barnstorm, which I miss, actually, but he's up to every task. Besides brilliant passagework, there's a touch of Pollini's respectful sobriety and nuanced phrasing. Ideally one wants Serkin's impetuosity that breaks unexpectedly into quiet rapture. Kissin doesn't provide that magical contrast, but he's very impressive on his own terms. Davis takes us to chruch in the slow movement, while Kissin's lyrical line is more straightforward. As expected, he handles the crowded chords and leaps in the finale to a fare-thee-well. In all, this is a fine "Emperor," not far below the very best (i.e., Serkin-Bernstein, Kempff-Leitner, Kissin-Levine, to name some personal favorites).

To sum up, this is the first Beethoven concerto cycle to mark as an event in decades, and although it's a bit middle-of-the-road on Davis's part, Kissin has something striking to say in every piece. He's more successful than Pollini in conveying a sense of involvement, if not nearly as imaginative as Pletnev, whose mercurial cycle is appearing on DG at the same moment. Comparing the two in the coming weeks will be fascinating.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian July 29 2010
By Christopher Smith - Published on Amazon.com
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? An oppressive sense of occasion, with all its attendant ponderousness, seems to loom large over the orchestra, and again I fault EMI for wanting to have a Davis cycle to stand against his superior Philips offerings. I'm reminded too of his rather ho-hum Sibelius cycle with RCA, which can't hold the proverbial candle to the Boston-Philips cycle. Obviously they thought a coupling of the dynamic, still relatively young virtuoso with London's eminence grise would be a surefire winner. Don't believe the hype.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best sounding Beethoven concerto cycle Feb. 21 2010
By pm444 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This set has by far the best recorded sound of any of the Beethoven piano concerto cycles I've heard, including the fairly recent Bronfman/Zinman budget discs that are excellent in their own right. Some reviewers, here and elsewhere, find Kissin to be too idiosyncratic and others have objected that Colin Davis's conducting lacks enthusiasm. I disagree with these criticisms, and found the performances to be engaging and enjoyable. I do agree that there are other recordings of the individual concertos that may offer better performances, but I wanted a cycle with the best sound that modern recording has to offer, and this set more than satisfies on that count, with performances that range from very good to excellent.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (+) Kissin Back? Partly, in the Rondos Oct. 19 2008
By C. Pontus T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Did I look forward to receiving my copy of Kissin's Beethoven Concertos cycle? Oh, very much indeed. Was I disappointed? Well, both yes and no: It is rather well established by now that Kissin lost some of his (youthful?) naturalness and impetuousness somewhere around the Millennium Shift; however, his final RCA disc rendered one of the best-ever accounts of the Scriabin Third Sonata and Stravinsky Petrushka Movements (Scriabin: Sonata No. 3; Five Preludes; Medtner: Sonata Reminiscenza; Stravinsky: Three Movements from Pétrouchka). 'Prodigious technique', 'nearly superhuman keyboard mastery', 'almost chocolate-like tone' and similar descriptions do represent Kissin's playing at its very best. In this 3-disc set, alas, there are too few of those moments. All too often, Kissin sounds as if he would rather have taken some well-deserved recreational beach resort holidays.

Luckily, having spent the equivalent c$30, there are some moments of sunlight as well in the discs--that is the Rondo movements, most notably of the Second, Third and Fourth Concertos. Unfortunately, there certainly are quite a few things to detract even the most ardent Kissin fans from most first and virtually all second movements. The first two Concertos fare reasonably well (notably including the first movements), whereas the last three all display a rather problematic journey before culminating in often breathtaking, if somewhat self-centered, Rondo movements. For once, I almost entirely agree with Jed Distler (ClassicsToday)--identifying both 'vulgar tempo distensions' as well as a 'tendency to put pianistic effect first while gliding over the specific linear qualities of Beethoven's style'.

Let's examine a few examples: First Concerto--is Kissin actually awake in the First Concerto's slow movement?; there are more than just a few ugly tones (e.g. at 2:27) in the exciting but markedly forced Rondo. Second Concerto--why isn't there any magic whatsoever in the slow movement? (as much a question to Davis). Third Concerto--is Kissin afraid of the first movement? (the development section at is a long standstill, whereas the Cadenza is the most hesitant I've heard). Fourth Concerto--although the first movement is fairly fumbling it contains some lovely playing (chocolate indeed!), what the heck is Kissin doing at 7:24 and 15:12, respectively? (completely out of any basic pulse--speaking of which, he finds about ten different in the Cadenza); 'The [...] slow movement's anguished build-up of trills rarely has come off so nonplussed and uninvolved' (Distler), which is a great pity to say the least, given the smashing Rondo (amongst the best on record!). Fifth Concerto--the principally heroic first movement has seldom sounded so feeble (but here the main blame should lie with Davis), with a particularly weak opening Cadenza; the slow movement is more of a sleeping pill than desirably dreamlike (those coarse trills at 4:43-5:19 simply should never have been let through); the Rondo, if dashing, still suffers from some less than beautiful passagework.

[...] Nonetheless, thanks to the Rondos, I'm still very eager to hear Kissin in Prokofiev's thrilling Second Concerto. Let's just hope for some substitution of orchestra, conductor and engineers.

***(+) is not so bad after all--more than decent First and Second Concertos, a super-dull Third save the Rondo, a Fourth that could have been great with a scorching Rondo, and a Fifth that disappoints (more Davis than Kissin)--apparently more than enough to be a candidate for next year's Gramophone Record of the Year (cf. Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4), not least taking into account that both orchestra, conductor and label are very much British. For an overall recommendable Beethoven Concertos cycle, which isn't that easy to come by (both Perahia/Haitink, Pollini/Abbado, Schiff/Haitink, Uchida/Sanderling and Zimerman/Bernstein are far from flawless), I will keep holding on to Fleisher/Szell (Beethoven: The 5 Piano Concertos/Mozart: Concerto No.25--at times available at the remarkable Amazon price of $[...]).

On a final note, the first disc contains an individualised link to a new online 'EMI Classics Club' community at opendisc.net. The idea looks both good and auspicious, at least having the potential to keep classical music up with the times...

[Hope you opted for this incarnation rather than the more than double priced import!]
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