BEETHOVEN: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 61a; C.P.E. BACH: Piano Concerto in C Minor, WQ 43, No. 4 – Dmitri Bashkirov, piano/Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne /Peter Csaba – Claves 50-1010, 57:18 [Distr. By Albany] ****:
Legend claims that Beethoven, disconcerted by the lack of success of his 1806 Violin Concerto–and at the suggestion of Muzio Clementi–rescored the concerto in 1808 for piano and orchestra, enlarging the first movement cadenza to accommodate the tympani. The keyboard flourishes, natural enough given Beethoven’s level of facility, exploit the instrument’s vocal capacities, its lyrical kinship with the Concerto No. 4 in G Major. The occasional bravura passages can claim a technical prowess that we find in the Archduke Trio or the Choral Fantasy. For the violin’s ability to hold a sustained note with consistent intensity the piano has its prolonged trills. The left hand part provides filler and doublings–in thirds and arpeggios–of the right hand, which virtually reproduces the violin part verbatim. Dmitri Bashkirov (b. 1931) and Peter Csaba take a leisurely ennobled pace for the first movement, and Bashkirov’s Steinway D-274 sounds resonantly crisp and clear. The elan vital of the first movement cadenza, architecturally speaking, makes the sonic shape distorted, a cuckoo in a starling’s nest. The G Major theme and variations takes on legato pearls and music-box sensibility rather than silken robes. A percussive cadenza–again suggestive of the Op. 80 Choral Fantasy fioritura–transitions to the familiar Rondo. Peter Csaba’s orchestral forces project a hearty, warm glow for this movement, a lush tissue that I wish would have been present for many recorded incarnations of the more familiar violin version. The brief but fiery last movement cadenza does hint at what bravura Bashkirov can still inject when called upon.
For those who collect pianist Bashkirov, the 1772 C.P.E. Bach concerto will likely possess more staying power than the hybrid Beethoven piece. The work itself–in four movements, a nod perhaps to concertos’ earlier forebears as sonatas da camera–relishes those “sensitive” touches of fancy endemic to the Bach empfindsamkeit mentality. The opening Allegro assai moves in darkly agitated dotted rhythm, the keyboard part a series of moving triplets of resolute affect touched by moments of espressivo. A false cadence leads to the Poco adagio, a poignant meditation whose character we could ascribe to Gluck. A jaunty Tempo di Menuetto chases away the gloom, Bashkirov’s moving in effortless staccati and repeated notes. The last movement might be cited as an example of early cyclic form, since it recalls motifs from all prior movements. Any sense of baroque fascination with but one affect quickly disperses as all the affects chase one another, the keyboard finely polished in its smooth transitions between sentiments. The little cadenza sports a spectacular agogic shift and some sweet arpeggios that may well have caught the dramaturgical ear of the musical sponge Beethoven.
— Gary Lemco