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Discussion: Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 - Olli Mustonen

Posts: 43
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Post by darkroommd August 3, 2007 (1 of 43)
I had quickly added this new recording to my wish list, following the positive reviews on this site. But now Mr. Hurwitz at ClassicsToday.com--whose reviews I find accurate and reliable--has roundly dismissed Mustonen's interpretative choices, using words such as "grotesque" and "mangling."

I am left at square one: no clear winners for purchasing Beethoven Piano Concertos on SACD.

Too bad DG did not decide to record and release Pletnev's Beethoven project in DSD/SACD. Having heard his performance of PC #1 & 3 on RBCD, I can say they are utterly brilliant.

What does anyone else think?

Post by nickc August 3, 2007 (2 of 43)
darkroommd said:

I had quickly added this new recording to my wish list, following the positive reviews on this site. But now Mr. Hurwitz at ClassicsToday.com--whose reviews I find accurate and reliable--has roundly dismissed Mustonen's interpretative choices, using words such as "grotesque" and "mangling."

I am left at square one: no clear winners for purchasing Beethoven Piano Concertos on SACD.

Too bad DG did not decide to record and release Pletnev's Beethoven project in DSD/SACD. Having heard his performance of PC #1 & 3 on RBCD, I can say they are utterly brilliant.

What does anyone else think?

Have a listen to the excerpt on the Ondine website - it's the beginning of the 3rd. movement of the 1st. - it sounds horribly plodding from Mustonen.
Cheers
Nick

Post by bissie August 3, 2007 (3 of 43)
darkroommd said:

I had quickly added this new recording to my wish list, following the positive reviews on this site. But now Mr. Hurwitz at ClassicsToday.com--whose reviews I find accurate and reliable--has roundly dismissed Mustonen's interpretative choices, using words such as "grotesque" and "mangling."

I am left at square one: no clear winners for purchasing Beethoven Piano Concertos on SACD.

Not quite yet, perhaps, but hope is around the corner:

Ronald Brautigam has started a traversal on BIS - on modern piano. The first SACD recording had my producer and engineer walk home on clouds (which saves a bit of travelling costs).

Best - Robert

Post by tommwi August 4, 2007 (4 of 43)
darkroommd said:

I had quickly added this new recording to my wish list, following the positive reviews on this site. But now Mr. Hurwitz at ClassicsToday.com--whose reviews I find accurate and reliable--has roundly dismissed Mustonen's interpretative choices, using words such as "grotesque" and "mangling."

I am left at square one: no clear winners for purchasing Beethoven Piano Concertos on SACD.

Too bad DG did not decide to record and release Pletnev's Beethoven project in DSD/SACD. Having heard his performance of PC #1 & 3 on RBCD, I can say they are utterly brilliant.

What does anyone else think?

I just love this one from Pletnev and DG. There is much Pletnev in these performances, but it is done with so much love and respect of the Beethoven as we know him today. This is the very best recording I have heard in years. The originality that comes with the choice of the piano creates a mellow full blooded tone that supports the enormous range of creativity this musician has. His finger works is a delight, just listen to his drills. It is simply outstanding!

Unfortunately the same can not be said of the Mustonen recording. It always seems to verge on the boring side in its full originality and the tempo choices makes me focus on just the tempo and not the music as a whole. It leaves me disturbed, truly annoying... Easily dismissed by me, and that seldom happens, because there always may be a fascinating travel ahead with a recording you don't like at the beginning.

And bissie-you have to tell us the conductor/orchestra in the Brautigam (planned?) recordings… Is it a Swedish orchestra with the letter N at the very beginning (consider him walking home)?

/Tommy

Post by terence August 4, 2007 (5 of 43)
tommwi said:

And bissie-you have to tell us the conductor/orchestra in the Brautigam (planned?) recordings…

yes i'd like to know too. also, why brautigam is using a modern piano (a steinway?) not period as in his (excellent) sonata cycle. when is the first release due? sounds v. enticing.

Post by bissie August 4, 2007 (6 of 43)
tommwi said:

And bissie-you have to tell us the conductor/orchestra in the Brautigam (planned?) recordings… Is it a Swedish orchestra with the letter N at the very beginning (consider him walking home)?

/Tommy

Well, if the Norrköping SO starts with an N, yes, that's it. With Andrew Parrott conducting, they know very well how to adjust to period practise. Ronald wanted to do this on modern instruments, but there is nothing stopping us from redoing it later with period instruments.
Release April 2008. It will be a full cycle incl. the van Beethoven reworking of his Violin Concerto.
Best - Robert

Post by Peter August 4, 2007 (7 of 43)
bissie said:

Well, if the Norrköping SO starts with an N, yes, that's it. With Andrew Parrott conducting, they know very well how to adjust to period practise. Ronald wanted to do this on modern instruments, but there is nothing stopping us from redoing it later with period instruments.
Release April 2008. It will be a full cycle incl. the van Beethoven reworking of his Violin Concerto.
Best - Robert

Including the Triple Concerto?

Peter

Post by Polly Nomial August 4, 2007 (8 of 43)
bissie said:

Well, if the Norrköping SO starts with an N, yes, that's it. With Andrew Parrott conducting, they know very well how to adjust to period practise. Ronald wanted to do this on modern instruments, but there is nothing stopping us from redoing it later with period instruments.
Release April 2008. It will be a full cycle incl. the van Beethoven reworking of his Violin Concerto.
Best - Robert

And the "Choral fantasy"?

Post by tommwi August 4, 2007 (9 of 43)
bissie said:

... Norrköping SO ...

This project I look forward to.

There are some remarkably young and talented chief conductors about to enter the Swedish orchestra’s leadership right now; orchestras who I happen to believe are experiencing an all time high in terms of playing quality. This I believe also applies to the Norrköpng SO.

So I will here ask bissie to consider a recording or two with this orchestra’s new chief conductor, Alan Buribayev. Of course he must have his honey moon with the orchestra first but then… I see quite a chance that this guy will turn up as a well known, possibly great, conductor on an international scene in the future. For those of us who hope to be around in the next 10-15 years - we will most certainly hear from him on the big scenes!

/Tommy

Post by Geohominid August 4, 2007 (10 of 43)
darkroommd said:

I had quickly added this new recording to my wish list, following the positive reviews on this site. But now Mr. Hurwitz at ClassicsToday.com--whose reviews I find accurate and reliable--has roundly dismissed Mustonen's interpretative choices, using words such as "grotesque" and "mangling."

I am left at square one: no clear winners for purchasing Beethoven Piano Concertos on SACD.

Too bad DG did not decide to record and release Pletnev's Beethoven project in DSD/SACD. Having heard his performance of PC #1 & 3 on RBCD, I can say they are utterly brilliant.

What does anyone else think?

When I reviewed this a couple of weeks ago, I was fully expecting it to be controversial; indeed I would have been disappointed in Mr Hurwitz if he had not come up with some invective about it, together with the reviewer in the BBC Music Magazine. I did hint that some people would hate it.
Fortunately I was able listen to it without preconceptions before any reviews emerged, and I thoroughly enjoyed it because it made me hear the works anew. I carefully tried to put my comments about the disc in context, in fact, two contexts, one concerning the music at its first performance, the other about the circumstances of the recording.

What the Mustonen performance brought to my mind was that the first two concertos were composed just after Beethoven arrived in Vienna from Bonn, a young man who thought a lot of himself, and he was trying to break into the piano virtuoso world. The Viennese at that time were crazy to hear and watch young tyros (from all over Europe) of this new-fangled instrument perform at concerts and piano circuses, where they would literally try to play one another under the piano to frenzied applause. As a newcomer, Beethoven had to employ shock and awe tactics, combined with seduction and showmanship to make any headway, and the first two concertos were vehicles for his attack on the lucrative market. They were purely occasional pieces, for specific events or purposes, like most music of that period and before. It was not until later in life that he thought that his music should be composed for the benefit of posterity, one of the first composers to do so. Looking back from our post-Romantic viewpoint, we have come to see all music as something to treat with almost religious respect, and we deeply honour what becomes its interpretational traditions.

But Beethoven drew exactly the same vitriolic responses from most of the critics of his day; the words "grotesque, absurd, diabolical" were cast at him all through his life as a composer and performer. Ever the iconoclast, his response to this was to tear the offending critics' words out of the broadsheets and hang them up on the back of the toilet door, so that, as he famously said, he could truly put their words behind him. Reading Nicolas Slominsky's 'A Lexicon of Musical Invective' will show how both composers and performers whom we now venerate were all slammed by the critics in even more extreme terms!

Having read Mustonen's remarks about what he was trying to do in his new cycle of concertos, with an orchestra specifically formed to play classical works in a period style but with modern instruments,conductor-less, with the latest scholarship in the Edition used, to re-examine them and place them more in their historical context as Beethoven's explosive entry onto the Vienna piano scene, I was intrigued. I read his comments about the interpretations in his press releases, his thoughts on the Ondine website and his interesting sleeve notes. And I still enjoy these performances; in my view they do not merit dismissal because they do not fit the comfortable, enshrined view of how these works should be performed. Only Beethoven would know how they were performed, and he would certainly have played them differently each time, depending on the crowd he had to please. There is no Performer's Rosetta stone for most of our music. As far as recordings go in general, we are blessed that there is plenty of choice, thanks to technology.

Music is the richest of the Arts in that it encompasses two creative processes; that of the original composition and then another, often just as powerful and potent, from the interpreter who brings the written code to physical reality. There will always be talented and dedicated musicians who will rightly challenge established views on performance from time to time. Some listeners will love this, others will be repelled. But music is a living language, and it must breathe and grow, not be fossilised in a museum. So Vive la Difference! And I shall go on enjoying Mustonen's first two Beethoven concerto recordings and be pleased that I wasn't put off hearing them by some bad reviews. I suspect that he will continue in his quest to make Beethoven alive for us regardless of them, perhaps even putting them behind him in true Beethovenian style!

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