BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto (Lazić)
Muzio Clementi and Johann Baptist (John) Cramer have much in common. Each was considered a leading virtuoso, each composed teaching pieces still in use, each could claim Beethoven’s admiration and friendship, and each became a successful music publisher and instrument manufacturer. Dejan Lazić has chosen two of their strongest sonatas. He throws himself into the Cramer E major’s turbulent first-movement development section at full force, while his rapid-fire detached left-hand octaves in the Allegretto compensate for mincingly clipped phrasing elsewhere. Notice, too, how Lazić marks the finale’s modulations by ever-so-slight yet noticeable adjustments in touch and timbre.
Lazić clearly relishes the desolate drama and clashing dissonances in the Clementi B minor Sonata’s first movement, while bringing a wide palette of expressive inflections to the Allegro finale. Certainly he raises the music’s emotional temperature in stark contrast to Howard Shelley’s cooler, more classically contained interpretation.
At Clementi’s request, Beethoven arranged his Violin Concerto for piano, expending minimal effort over the project. He basically left the orchestration intact, reproduced the solo violin part more or less verbatim on the piano, adding just enough left-hand accompaniment to keep the soloist from getting bored. Although Beethoven didn’t provide cadenzas for the violinist, he left four options for the pianist, including a wild fantasia (heard here) where the piano and timpani duke it out. Lazić’s sophisticated phrasing, unusual accents and strategic stresses throughout the long first movement often liberate the music from the bar lines. However, he saves his best long-lined legato eloquence for a beautifully sustained Larghetto. Under Gordan Nikolitch’s leadership, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra offer wind- and brass-dominated balances and well-characterised first-desk solo turns. Unfortunately their heavy-gaited Rondo finale lacks the vitality, light-hearted thrust and finer ensemble calibration distinguishing Boris Berezovsky’s collaboration with Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, my current top choice. Buy this disc for the sonatas.