Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat, Op.19
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58
Ingrid Jacoby (piano)
Recorded 30 & 31 July 2011 in Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw
CD No: ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5086 Duration: 64 minutes Reviewed: March 2013
ICA Classics – Ingrid Jacoby plays Beethoven’s Piano Concertos 2 & 4 [Sinfonia Varsovia & Jacek Kaspszyk]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
ICA Classics is primarily about resurrecting archive material with which to keep us in contact with the great musicians of the past. Its forays into newly made recordings are fewer. Any versions made now of such familiar repertoire as Beethoven’s piano concertos need to be truly special to compete with the decades of accumulated versions. Ingrid Jacoby’s are not quite that elevated, but both of these accounts are enjoyable and likeable and reveal a talented musician about whom such questions as date of birth and nationality are not easily found; however in 1985 she took part in the Seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition appearing under the flag of the USA and was eliminated in the first round. Success – or the lack of it – in a competition doesn’t necessarily hold for much. Clearly Jacoby – “directly descended from the pianist, composer and Prussian nobleman, Prince Louis Ferdinand (1772-1806), to whom Beethoven dedicated his Third Piano Concerto” – is a fine, sensitive and skilled artist, and in the piano concertos numbered either side of that C minor example she gives spirited and considered performances.
If her account of the wondrous Piano Concerto No.4 (its first recording was made in 1925 by York Bowen) cannot quite compete with the most searching and transcendental versions of it (I remain entranced by Hans Richter-Haaser’s half-century-old taping for Columbia, conducted by István Kertész, now on Testament), then again there is much from Jacoby whose Classical approach brings a sprightly tempo for the first movement that also doesn’t expand enough. In addition, a closer captured orchestra, or conversely having the piano a few feet further away from the listener, would have helped enforce a more meaningful working relationship between soloist and accompanists, although there is obvious sympathy between the musicians but in turn the venue might be considered a little too reverberant if warmly ambient.
Sinfonia Varsovia plays with tact and is sometimes too demure, and there is also a tendency for Jacoby and Jacek Kaspszyk to be impulsive at times, with sudden lurches, and not necessarily at the same time. Nevertheless, these artists’ pursuit of the scores is enlivened and crisp, and always puts the music first – without novelty for its own sake or with an attitude that suggests ‘we know better than Beethoven’. So, after the first movement of the G major Concerto, which could have enjoyed a little more poise and poetry, Jacoby offers a simple and affecting plea for peace in the slow movement, and then a joyous finale. The outer movements of the B flat Piano Concerto sparkle, the last one being notably nifty, and with the slow one having real depth without such feelings being overly applied. Jacoby plays Beethoven’s cadenzas, choosing the more-usual of the available two in the first movement of the G major, and if neither rendition can be thought as challenging the very best – they lack for exploration and the piano can be too close to negate the most illuminating interaction with the orchestra – these are undoubtedly fresh and admirable accounts that serve as excellent calling-cards for a pianist who may not be as well-known as she should be.