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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major Op. 15 [33:48]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major Op. 73 [39:17]
Geza Anda (piano)
Camerata Academica Salzburg (No. 1)
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg (Sudwestfunk-Orchester)/Hans Rosbaud (No. 5)
rec. 9 February 1960 SDR Stuttgart, Villa Berg (No. 1) ; 18 April 1956 SWF Baden-Baden, Hans-Rosbaud Studio (No. 5)
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 94.223 [73:05]

Excelling in the piano works of Schumann and Brahms, Anda’s Beethoven recordings were never as prolific as one might expect. Had he not died in 1976, at the age of fifty-four, the balance might have been redressed. Three piano sonatas were all he left to posterity in his commercial discography. Yet he had intimated to Joachim Kaiser, a professor of music history in Stuttgart, that he would one day like to perform all of them. Sadly it was not to be. Of the piano concertos, the first became his favorite. Apart from the performance here, there is a studio recording from 1956 with the Philharmonia and Alceo Galliera. Two airings exist on Orfeo, one from the Salzburg Festival with Maazel from 1963 that I have never heard, and a terrific performance from Munich dated 9March 1968 with Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Orfeo C 271 921B). Piano Concertos three and four were also taken into the studio with Knappertsbusch (1962) and Keilberth (1964) respectively. Concertos two and five seem to have taken a backseat. Number two was performed with more frequency when he was a young man. He performed all the concertos in concert in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn in 1970. The performance of number five here is a first in his discography.
 
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is here directed by Anda from the keyboard. He first became acquainted with the Camerata Academica Salzburg in 1952, when he played Mozart at the Salzburg Festival under Bernhard Paumgartner. He would later make his complete survey of the Mozart piano concertos with this same band, again directing from the keyboard. Here he starts with a buoyant tempo. Phrases are well shaped and articulated. There is crystal-clear playing in the fast passages. The slow movement is poetic and expressive, and he conjures up a beautiful rounded tone. Pianissimos are exquisitely achieved. There is verve and vigour in the third movement, and a great display of sparkling fingerwork. Throughout, Anda is more cautious than in the Munich reading with Kubelik, where a minute is shaved off each of the movements. Also, the Munich performance has the added advantage of much brighter sound.
 
Beethoven’s Op. 73, sees Anda at the end of a fruitful collaboration with Hans Rosbaud. It produced such gems as the Rachmaninov, Brahms and Mozart concerto recordings. The Beethoven, as a whole, is marred by less than ideal sound, with the piano recessed, resulting in some lack of detail. Yet despite the sonic limitations, the performance is engaging. Tempi are within limits, though the third movement appears a little less energized than one has come to now expect. The highlight is the slow movement, where Anda delivers a poignantly expressive reading, fervent in its realization.
 
Booklet notes are in German and English. Written by Wolfgang Rathert, I presume that the English notes were translated from the German by him, there is nothing to state otherwise. They are not an easy read, and the translation is far from wonderful. One sentence I found completely incomprehensible. In a couple of places they are factually incorrect. Reference is made to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major Op. 10 no. 4 (should be no. 3). The live recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 1 conducted by Kubelik is incorrectly dated 1962. It is actually from 9 March 1968, as stated above. It is the Brahms’ Second, also on that Orfeo disc, that is from 18 October 1962.
 
This disc is, however, indispensable to those lovers of Anda’s art who want his take on Op.73. With regard to Op. 15, the Munich recording with Kubelik offers a far better alternative.
 
So there we have it: two Beethoven concerto recordings, new to the Anda discography. A must for completists, yet I found them generally disappointing.
 
Stephen Greenbank  

Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano concerto 1 ~~ Concerto 5


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