Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Igor Levit, Akiko Suwanai, play Beethoven concertos.

One of the advantages of living in the Internet age is the ability to tap into sites such as Orchestra on Demand and listen to orchestral performances from all over the world. (If only there were also a website doing the same for chamber and instrumental music). Recently I tapped into Igor Levit in Vienna (Radio Austria) and Akiko Suwanai (Hungarian website).

Igor Levit played Beethoven's E flat piano concerto with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. The Radio Austria recording (from May this year) was clear and well-balanced. The Viennese orchestra played Beethoven to the manor born. Levit in Beethoven (as in Bach and Mozart) is always a clear winner; he invariably mirrors the form and emotions of the music he is playing and the result here is a three star performance of the piano concerto following every twist and turn of Beethoven's music.

I was pleased to hear Akiko Suwanai again; a major presence in the violin world up until a few years ago, she has always been a violinist well worth hearing. Her playing in Beethoven's violin concerto (at a concert in 2016) is typical of her; excellent musicianship, impeccable technique, flowing tempos (the concerto comes in at a whisker over 40 minutes rather than the more usual 43-44 minutes). The Korean orchestra (KBS Symphony Orchestra) was recorded somewhat dimly, with up-front woodwind and soloist and everyone else relegated to the background. The audience in Seoul was supremely bronchial throughout. A performance for lovers of Akiko Suwanai's violin playing, rather than for lovers of Beethoven's violin concerto. Recording and balancing orchestras and soloists is a demanding art, and not everyone succeeds.

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