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O'Connor Revisits Beethoven

17 OCT 08 VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

Hot on the heels of his recent Telarc recording of Beethoven's Piano Concertos No. 2 and 5, the Irish pianist John O'Conor offers more treats for Beethoven lovers with this commendable two-disc release of the first, third and fourth concertos.

O'Conor, a stellar Beethoven interpreter, won 1st Prize at the Beethoven International Piano Competition in Vienna in 1973 and studied the composer's works with the legendary German pianist Wilhelm Kempff.

His impeccable Beethoven credentials are fully evident here. O'Conor plays with sparkling clarity in the Mozartean opening Allegro of the Concerto No. 1 and poise in the second movement Largo. His vivacious performance in the sunny Rondo is well matched by the warm and crisply defined playing of the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andreas Delfs. Both orchestra and soloist play with a buoyant and expressive touch throughout.

Delfs and the London band offer a nuanced performance of the long orchestral tutti in the first movement of the Concerto No. 3, whose lukewarm reception at its Vienna premiere was no doubt in part to inadequate rehearsal time. O'Conor plays the lovely Largo with graceful introspection and the Rondo with sharply defined finesse.

The introspective rendition of the Concerto No. 4 is perhaps the highlight of the disc, a bravura performance meshing expressive elegance and vibrant playing from both pianist and orchestra.