Beethoven
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)
Variations on ‘Rule, Britannia’, WoO79
Andante favori, WoO57
Variations on ‘God Save the King’, WoO57
Bagatelles, Op.119
Ingrid Jacoby (piano)

Sinfonia Varsovia
Jacek Kaspszyk [Emperor]

Piano Concerto recorded 20 & 21 November 2012 in Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw; solo works recorded 11 & 12 November 1991 & 18 February 1992 in Watford Town Hall, Hertfordshire, England
CD No: ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5104
Duration: 81 minutes
Reviewed: June 2013
With recorded sound less orchestrally recessed than Ingrid Jacoby’s previous Beethoven release for ICA Classics – Piano Concertos 2 and 4 – this ‘Emperor’ makes far more of an impact. What’s more, it’s one hell of a performance! Previously one might have thought Jacoby as occasionally anonymous, but playing in E flat she brings a vitality and drive to the first movement that is compelling and fresh, vividly accompanied. Which is not to suggest any lack of dynamic variance and refinement, but overall there is real electricity here, concert-hall spontaneity, a swift and vibrant account that sweeps away any cobwebs that may have become accreted to – dare one say it – the least interesting of Beethoven’s five numbered piano concertos. If the sound of the piano is rather lightweight and rather clangourous, it’s also crisp and doesn’t obfuscate the orchestra, although there are a few passages where she could have ‘accompanied’ more.
The slow movement, spaciously romantic, is generously expressive and occasionally hushed intimacies, and the finale is nicely poised and full of swinging impetus (although Jacoby can sometimes thump the pedals); timpani detail at the very close, when the music winds down, is excellent. This is maybe not an ‘everyday’ performance of Opus 73, for it can be a bit insistent and bright, prominent horns losing their appeal across the whole, and lacking the subtlety and poetry of Perahia/Haitink or the deep soul of Arrau/Colin Davis, but it is a welcome tonic, to be keenly returned to when one becomes tired, once again, of this particular piano concerto.
The solo pieces account for around half of the disc’s total playing time. Three are ‘without opus number’, but that makes them no less attractive, for Jacoby realises each with sympathy and composure, relishing but not over-playing Beethoven’s genius as a writer of Variations and eloquence, his sleights of hand and fertile imagination. In between is a nicely gentle Andante favori, Jacoby allowing it to grow of its own accord. Finally, a mere bagatelle, but not trifles (not even the 15-second example), eleven of them, Beethoven’s concision, tunefulness and witticisms are a joy. Although briefly available hitherto, the ‘recital’ part of this release has effectively taken 20 years to reach a wide public and is well-worth getting to know. Each Variation and Bagatelle is separately tracked.

 

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