Beethoven: Triple Concerto (CD review)

Also, The Creatures of Prometheus Overture, Egmont Overture, Coriolan Overture. Giuliano Carmignola, violin; Sol Gabetta, cello; Dejan Lazic, piano. Giovanni Antonini, Kammerorchester Basil. Sony Classical 88883763622.

For years, critics have been putting down Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano, and Orchestra in C Major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto" as being lightweight fluff, and for as many years audiences have been loving the work. Of course, it takes a talented group of musicians to pull it off successfully, and on this 2016 Sony release we get some of the best musicians in the business with Giuliano Carmignola, violin; Sol Gabetta, cello; and Dejan Lazic, piano; with Maestro Giovanni Antonini leading the Basil Chamber Orchestra.

Although Beethoven's Triple Concerto (1804) never impressed critics as much as his violin and piano concertos did, concertgoers have long enjoyed it for its delicious melodies and memorable tunes, especially its soaring first movement and its sweet Largo. The music, as you probably know, is a kind of orchestrated chamber trio, a sinfonia concertante where the several instruments oppose the orchestra and each other, a style that had passed out of vogue by Beethoven's time but one into which Beethoven injected new life.

As I say, it takes three really accomplished players to set any new recording of the Triple Concerto apart, and Carmignola, Gabetta, and Lazic accomplish this with their easy demeanor. Their rendition is expressive and happy without being in the least bit over driven, fast, or rushed. Indeed, their performance styles seem perfectly matched to produce optimal results, the suave, subtle nuances of their playing effectively setting off each performer from the others.

Giuliano Carmignola
Would I suggest that the current trio outpace the justly famous partnership of David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Sviatoslav Richter on EMI/Warner? No, certainly not; that recording may be a touchstone for decades to come. Nor can the fine work of Maestro Antonini and the Basil Chamber Orchestra match Herbert von Karajan and the mighty Berlin Philharmonic. But, if anything, this newer entry is a more intimate, more affectionately communicative effort.

With Carmignola, Gabetta, and Lazic we get a greater sense of a chamber group, with the orchestra almost an afterthought. The performance and sound frequently reminded me of the chamber music of Schubert: friendly, good-natured, playful, and melodic.

While it perhaps doesn't have the authoritative, magisterial stamp of Oistrakh, Rostropovich, and Richter, the present rendition is surely as listenable, as pleasurable, and as carefree in its own way.

Now, since the Triple Concerto is not a very long work, the album's producers have filled out the disc with three other things, Beethoven overtures, which bookend the concerto. The Creatures of Prometheus, the Egmont, and the Coriolan Overtures sound elegant, polished, and heroic. They make lively accompaniment to the main show.

Andreas Neubronner and Markus Heiland of Tritonus Musikproduktion produced, mastered, and edited the album, recording it at the Philharmonie, Luxembourg in June 2013. The sound is reasonably dynamic, both in its range from softest to loudest notes and in its impact. Yet it doesn't give up much in the way of a natural response, either; it provides a warm, smooth sonic impression, set in a modestly resonant acoustic. The instruments appear well balanced with one another and with the orchestra, not too close or too highlighted, so the whole production is lifelike, even if it never achieves an ultimate transparency.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

Mission Statement

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.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa