BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos Nos 4 & 5
Till Fellner, always among the more quietly celebrated pianists, includes Alfred Brendel among his mentors and together with Kent Nagano and the Montreal SO gives us two of the most supremely satisfying performances of both these concertos on record. This is a dream partnership with soloist and conductor working hand-in-glove, and even when you conjure with so many glorious names in such core repertoire (from Schnabel to Lupu) you will rarely hear playing of such an enviable, unimpeded musical grace and fluency.
Fellner surely belongs among that elite who Charles Rosen so memorably defined as those who, while they appear to do nothing, achieve everything. His playing is subtly rather than ostentatiously coloured and inflected, and if others might be thought more vivid or personal, Fellner’s and Nagano’s ease and naturalness always allow Beethoven his own voice. Fellner’s still small voice of calm in the Fourth Concerto’s central Andante con moto is one among many glories, and if many of us are looking ahead to Paul Lewis’s forthcoming cycle of the complete concertos, and also to a possible recording by Maria João Pires, whose performances have been universally admired, even they will be hard pressed to equal let alone surpass Fellner’s Olympian mastery. Some biographical reminders and a total timing would have been helpful but balance and sound are pleasingly natural and this memorable issue is crowned with a short but intriguing essay by Paul Griffiths.