Gillham’s expertise with these works comes through incredibly clearly in this collection of live recordings. From a set of concerts given in June 2019, these are recordings from performers that understand Beethoven’s language perfectly.
Gillham’s recorded the Piano Concerto No 4 before – you might remember the ABC release of his 2016 live recording with the Sydney Symphony and Vladimir Ashkenazy. His performance here of the same piece with the ASO and Nicholas Carter isn’t so different in style, but benefits from the deliciously comfortable eiderdown bed of the Elder Hall acoustic. Carter’s conducting (and the ASO’s playing) is taut and efficient – there’s a taste of historically-informed performance in the precision of their sound here.
The other concerti are equally brilliant. The youthful No 2 (oddly, actually the earliest of the set) is flavoured like Haydn or Mozart, but Beethoven’s own style keeps coming through. The slow movement here, for instance, is truly lush.
No 1 is an early work, and, like No 2, the shades of the classicists are tempered with Beethoven’s extroversion. No 5 (Emperor) is wonderfully played here, with a genuinely moving slow movement.
With collections of music by a single composer, I always feel that there’s a danger that by the end of it, you could be heartily sick of them – “no more Beethoven, please!”. The result here is quite the opposite. Quick tempi, clear and powerful musical decision-making from Carter, and eloquent solo work from Gillham combine into a wonderful all-Australian set of these works.
Compositions: Piano Concertos Nos 1-5
Performers: Jayson Gillham p, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Nicholas Carter cond
Catalogue Number: ABC Classics 4818533 (3CD)