Classical CD Reviews
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”; 5 Variations in D on “Rule, Britannia”; Andante favori in F Major; 7 Variations in C Major on “God Save the King”; 11 Bagatelles – Ingrid Jacoby, p./ Sinfonia Varsovia/ Jacek Kaspsyk – ICA Classics
Published on April 30, 2013
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor”; 5 Variations in D on “Rule, Britannia”; Andante favori in F Major; 7 Variations in C Major on “God Save the King”; 11 Bagatelles, Op. 119 – Ingrid Jacoby, piano/ Sinfonia Varsovia/ Jacek Kaspsyk – ICA Classics ICAC 5104, 80:46 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Biographies of pianist Ingrid Jacoby tout the fact that she is descended from Prince Louis Ferdinand (1772-1806) of Prussia, to whom Beethoven dedicated his Third Piano Concerto. Her most recent release of Beethoven (rec. 2012 for the Concerto; 1991-1992 for the solo works) in the ongoing cycle indeed demonstrates a natural affinity for the composer, particularly in Jacoby’s ability to bring a strong technique and a capacity for color elements to her interpretations.
Jacoby and conductor approach the 1812 Emperor Concerto as a grand sinfonia concertante, the piano part integrated almost seamlessly into the fabric of the orchestral development. A fine, tightly molded, articulated line emanates from Jacoby, much in a manner Clara Haskil might have imparted to this epic work. Conductor Kaspsyk, too, has his own ideas of resonance and textural sonority, ushering the brass and winds of the Sinfonia Varsovia with to a fiery series of declamations. The pianissimo secondary subject, in tiptoe staccati in a weird harmonic anomaly of B Minor and C-flat Major, possesses a special magic. The recapitulation enters in grand style, a sense of ceremonial flourish heightened by the marcato approach, the singularly resonant trill, and the brisk runs that sweep in the orchestra’s statement of the main theme. Some exquisite pearly play and alla musette effects herald the extended coda, itself a grand peroration in majestic arches.
Jacoby conceives the B Major Adagio un poco mosso as a series of tender variations on a pilgrim’s hymn, a kind of antecedent to the march in Tannhauser. Here, Jacoby and Kaspsyk achieve an atmosphere of warm intimacy, the dramatic element not eschewed but subordinated to the cantilena the piano attains in spite of the occasional percussive transformations of the theme’s character. With the pregnant drop of a semi-tone from B to B-flat, we enter the jocose world of the Rondo: Allegro, that exuberant and irreverent dance in 6/8 that sounds spiritually close to the Dionysian revelry of the Seventh Symphony. The sonorities of the hunt seem nigh, especially as the Varsovia brass make it evident that we have abandoned the salon for a vaster dramatic stage. Besides the crisp articulation of the various variants within this large and playful movement of electric excitement, Jacoby brings – as she has demonstrated throughout – a poetic kinship with Beethoven’s assertive figures that can suddenly melt into extraordinary sympathies for the human condition.
Beethoven’s popularity in Britain motivated him to respond in kind with sets of variations on jingoistic national pieces, like Thomas Arne’s “Rule Britannia.” Playful and inventive, they raise the original materials to Beethoven’s often startling level of virtuosity, in colors, dynamics, and modal harmonies. The 1803 Andante favori, his discarded slow movement for the Waldstein Sonata, receives a slow but noble reading from Jacoby, who keeps a long line and elastic tension on its progressions. The 1820 Eleven Bagatelles first came to my attention via the inscription of the tempestuous Rudolf Serkin. The long-elusive Artur Schnabel reading has recently come back into the active canon of recordings. As spare and compressed as they are poetic, the Bagatelles well adumbrate later developments in Brahms and Schoenberg. Jacoby proves a sensitive purveyor of their individual beauties, ascribing to them a poise and harmonic daring quite synonymous with Beethoven’s late style. If the No. 10 (in ten measures) reduces our sense of drama to twenty seconds, the last of the set, No. 11 in B-flat Major, poignantly says goodbye to the Viennese school of improvisation – that likewise embraced the music of Schubert’s German Dances – with fond melancholy affection.