Beethoven: Triple Concerto (CD review)

Also, Rondo in B flat; Choral Fantasy. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano; Thomas Zehetmair, violin; Clemens Hagen, cello. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Warner Classics 2564 60602-2.

I immensely enjoyed this Warner Classics recording of the Beethoven Triple Concerto for a combination of reasons. First and foremost, you’ll hardly find a better played account. Aimard, Zehetmair, Hagen, Harnoncourt, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe take it more gently than I’ve heard it most often before (also surprising from Harnoncourt), yet it benefits from the tender, loving care. If I found any snag at all in it, it’s that I thought the piano sometimes sounded too big, too close, while the other two soloists seemed more realistically positioned. Well, we might expect that, I suppose, as the piano in this particular piece of music generally takes pride of place amongst all the instruments.

Second, I enjoyed the harmonious interplay among the three soloists, Aimard on piano, Zehetmair on violin, and Hagen on cello, as well as their non-obtrusive accompaniment by Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. True, no one is going to mistake this group’s work for the more grand and opulent performance by Richter, Oistrakh, and Rostropovich with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI or Hi-Q), but look at what giants we had working there.

Third, I liked the two companion pieces on the disc, the Rondo in B flat, which may have been the original closing movement of the B-flat Piano Concerto, Aimard giving it a lively reading; and the Choral Fantasy, which is a sort of miniature, scaled-down Ninth Symphony, complete with a rousing choral finale.

Finally, I liked the sound: Very subtle, very refined, very natural. Perhaps not always so transparent as it might be, it always appeared wonderfully realistic and was a definite pleasure to listen to. In all, a most felicitous release.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa