Paul Lewis, BBCSO/Belohlavek: Beethoven Complete Piano Concertos

A performance that aims to present the music of Beethoven rather than demonstrate the virtuosity of the pianist.

Beethoven is such a ubiquitous presence in classical music that it is easy to forget his brilliance and importance in the face of yet another recording of his works. In this case, though, a second look is worthwhile as the British pianist Paul Lewis offers up five exemplary interpretations of the piano concertos. Released ahead of his titanic performances at the Proms this year - in which he will perform all five concertos - this three-CD set brings together the considerable talents of Lewis with the always-reliable BBC Symphony Orchestra. Lewis, who also recently recorded the 32 piano sonatas for Harmonia Mundi, is something of a specialist in the late classical and early romantic canon, and his technique, so agile around the glissandi and cadenzas of the early movements and so radiant during the limpid slow movement of the Fifth Concerto, is flawless enough to make this enormous feat of stamina and memory seem effortless. Against any accusations of po-faced intellectualism he can throw the wittily performed Rondo of the Fourth Concerto, while the warmth of tone and sense of timing applied to the rubato spells make this highly enjoyable. His approach is to present the music of Beethoven, rather than show off his own virtuosity, and he succeeds in this while retaining enough character to keep listeners on their toes.

Mozart Piano Concertos 24-27
Alicia de Larrocha (piano), Sir George Solti, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, London Philharmonic
The Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, who died last year, was better known for her interpretations of the great Spanish composers, but moved towards the classical repertoire near the end of her career, and her sensitive tone is put to good use on the late Mozart piano concertos.

Mozart Piano Concertos 20 & 27
Evgeny Kissin (piano), Kremerata Baltica
(EMI Classics)
A different take on Mozart's piano concertos here, from the fiery young pianist Kissin, conducting the Kremerata Baltica himself from the keyboard. Kissin is known for his vigorous, even flashy, approach and dazzling technique, and here the former child prodigy brings a satisfying crispness to these works.