Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 / Nagano

Album cover art for upc 774204995522
Catalog: AN29955
Format: CD

Mari Kadama: piano; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Kent Nagano (conductor)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 in C Major, Op.15; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Major, Op. 19

Wholenote Discoveries - May 2009
I looked forward to hearing these concertos after Nagano’s Beethoven Fifth Symphony recorded with the Montreal Symphony (AN2 9942-3). That performance was a wave of fresh air in dynamics, phrasing and tempi and a welcome addition to the catalogue, holding one’s attention to the last bar. Mari Kodama is endowed with astonishing virtuosity, self assurance and control. This reminded me of Glenn Gould when his limitless ability, boarding on arrogance, could stand in the way the music. As these performances unfold I was persuaded that she is offering genuine musical insights with a personal touch that is quite appealing. About eight minutes into the first movement of the first concerto, Beethoven’s genius is manifested using simple means for the unfolding drama of the music. Descending scales, played 3 times, remind me of similar scales in Mozart’s Don Giovanni which portend the demise of the Don. How these simple passages are played is one of the critical measures of artistic insight. No reservations here nor with the inner world of the slow movement. The third movement, taken at a brisk pace, is exhilarating. Kodama’s style is perfectly akin to the second concerto. Her no nonsense, clear approach suits this work perfectly. Sparkling throughout and as stylistically satisfying as any I know of. The orchestra is just the right size for these works and Nagano, as expected, provides illuminating support, fresh and pointed beyond merely impeccable. The spacious recording is clean and well projected with a pleasing ambience. It will be quite interesting to hear the other three concertos as they may require less of the sparkling pianism and more heavyweight musicianship. Odds are she’ll make it brilliantly. Bruce Surtees

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