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Featured Selection: Beethoven Triple Concerto

The MHS Review 403, VOL. 12, NO.7 • 1988

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David M. Greene


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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Concerto in C Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello Op. 56

Joseph Kalichstein, Piano

Jaime Laredo, Violin

Sharon Robinson, Cello

English Chamber Orchestra

Sir Alexander Gibson, Conductor

No doubt it's mere coincidence, but where I live it's been raining Beethoven triple concerti. First I ordered the recent Deutsche Gram­mophon CD of Karajan's second ver­sion. Then, forgetting I had ordered it, I purchased the recently released EMI CD of Karajan's first. Last week a touring piano trio agreed to play it with the student orchestra of one of our local colleges. And now this!

Perhaps the work has at last come into its own. Things were not always thus. I've been able to hear it "live" only once in my 68 years--a perfor­mance by the Beaux Arts Trio and the Pittsburgh Symphony, for which my expectations were too high or the per­formance itself too low. Anyway, it was a disappointment.

Beethoven wrote the thing in his prime--concurrently with the "Eroica" Symphony and Fidelio. He published this "concertant," as he called it, in 1807, the year in which the work got a public performance in Vienna. Beethoven never heard it per­formed again: the next performance took place 23 years later, or three after his death.

I don't think the concerto is top­-level Beethoven, but it is Beethoven and deserves better treatment than it has had. In the first place, its com­poser was right: it offers "something new" and he is at pains to give his soloists equal time. The work opens with a sonata allegro whose double exposition begins in an atmosphere of mystery, progresses to a brief but lovely largo, and winds up with a cat­chy polonaise.

This performance profits, I think, from being small scale. The three pro­tagonists, all international soloists in their own right, have played as a trio for some years, and so are as homogenous as one could wish. If I had to single out one it would be Jaime Laredo, whose violin is gorgeous. Trevor Harvey, who reviewed the record for The Gramophone, found the soloists "among the best of recorded teams."

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