Beethoven, Piano Concertos No. 1 (cadenza by G. Gould), L. Vogt, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, S. Rattle (EMI, 2002)
German pianist Lars Vogt last joined the BSO in 2002, before the foundation of this site. He had a star turn as soloist in Beethoven's first piano concerto, giving a pleasing weight in the keys but also beautifully shaped lines as he nestled comfortably in the sound envelope that Stenz helped the orchestra created around him. An early music crispness ran through Stenz's interpretation, light on vibrato and with a clean and short articulation on all three repeated notes of this most concise of head motifs in the first movement. A virtuosic handling of the first movement was capped by Vogt's choice of a long, contrapuntally complex, and at times truly weird cadenza: it sounded like Liszt or another 19th-century virtuoso, but it was actually written down by Beethoven himself, after the publication of this concerto. (Vogt has recorded an eccentric cadenza by Glenn Gould for this concert, over a decade ago.) The only drawback in the second movement, which was tender and musical, were occasional intonation disagreements between orchestra and piano, and the tempo choice, not too slow, was a nice twist. Vogt was rock solid in the parallel thirds, setting the third movement off at a brisk clip, and the left-hand crossings, giving each line crystalline clarity.
Robert Battey, Guest conductor Markus Stenz pulls the BSO into an unknown but elite realm (Washington Post, March 14)
The play has obvious parallels in Beethoven's opera Fidelio, where the rescue fantasy becomes reality. This made the choice of the second Leonore overture an apt one to open this concert. Stenz's one fault, if it is one, is his sometimes exaggerated gesture. Occasionally both last week and this week, he seemed to rush the beat in his enthusiasm, which disconcerted the ensemble's unity at times, like the dramatic pauses in the opening section of this overture, tricking one of the horns into an early entrance at one point. Going over the top as he did, however, also led to striking dramatic contrasts, and the best moments were not necessarily the loud ones. The offstage trumpet solo, played from a balcony toward the rear of the auditorium, was particularly effective.