This civilised performance of the C-major Piano Concerto No.1 (from Berlin concerts in December 2016) is led-off by a dapper and nuanced introduction from the Philharmoniker and Christian Thielemann, the orchestra captured wide and deep, timpani hard-right, basses hard-left (violins antiphonal). With his first entry, Rudolf Buchbinder sets his stall out – sparkling playing with a gentle touch and afforded a concert-hall balance.
Buchbinder is not one to dominate or show-off, his fingers on the keys can be feather-light, phrasing is elegant, and he is musically considerate, first among equals – try from 7’55″-8’30” in the first movement where he demurs to woodwinds yet every note he plays shines through. In place of the often-chosen longest of Beethoven’s three cadenzas, Buchbinder offers something shorter if commensurate with his overall approach. The Largo flows with songful warmth, until 5’33″ when a more outspoken stance is taken – with Thielemann really emphasising pizzicatos – before reverie returns, a seductive clarinet in dialogue. The Finale sparkles at an articulate tempo, bringing out buffa elements, and if the ‘jazz’ episode is too respectful of its potential for swing (Friedrich Gulda, with the Vienna Philharmonic and Horst Stein, Decca, leads the way here), then it certainly dances gaily.
To Bremen last year to document the Variations, Opus 34, Buchbinder now given a closer profile. The rather solemn Theme yields to Beethoven’s genius for commentary on something rather initially unprepossessing and Buchbinder gives a relished and dynamic account of the whole. DG 483 7733.