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Dip Your Ears, No. 6

L.v.Beethoven, Piano Concerto no.4, Symphony no.2 (chamber versions),
Robert Levin

Another disc of standard Beethoven repertoire? Geez, what could be so special about the nth recording of the 2nd Symphony and the 4th Piano Concerto? Well, for starters, the fact that these are the Beethoven-transcribed versions for piano trio and piano sextet! They're not well known, but if the 2nd Symphony had never been written, this piano trio version of it would be a regular guest in concert halls around the world, hailed as one of the finest trios ever written, together with the Archduke and the Ghost. Beethoven himself had a hand in finishing that transcription, and the Piano Concerto was transcribed entirely by him.

The playing is impeccable with Robert Levin, a period performance specialist, on a Hammerflügel and the first chairs of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique backing him up. (Robert Levin was also the soloist for the rightly acclaimed Gardiner/ORR survey of Beethoven's complete piano concertos.) This is joyous chamber music that sounds eerily familiar, and it adds both to the smaller, more intimate genre as well as to one's understanding and appreciation of the larger works that stood model for them. These are not the makeshift transcriptions that were common in times when larger works could hardly be heard by a wider public, and they sure deserve a listen.

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