The opening orchestral tutti seems to augur well for this new account of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. I do miss the mysterious grandeur Fricsay conjures in his magisterial DG recording (10/61), but the Frankfurt Radio Symphony have an eager spring in their step, the brass and timpani punctuate with pleasing muscularity, and with the surprise shift of tonality at 1'25" Järvi shows an attention to expressive detail that’s affecting without sounding affected.
The soloists don’t let us down. Anne Gastinel shows no sign of strain in the treacherously high-lying cello part; her tone is unfailingly warm and sonorous from top to bottom. Gil Shaham is his usual sincerely musical, sweet-sounding self. And Nicholas Angelich wisely employs a light touch while applying slightly more rubato than his counterparts, which prevents the busy piano part from sounding too étude-like. With this abundance of technical ﬁnesse and musical tact, am I being churlish to feel vaguely dissatisﬁed? Lazic´, Carmignola and Gabetta (Sony, 10/15) don’t breeze through this obstacle course of a concerto nearly as easily, nor are the solo strings as well-matched in tone, but their reading is so vividly characterised. Take the opening of the Polacca ﬁnale, for example: Gastinel plays the tune ﬂawlessly but Gabetta’s phrases are longer-breathed; and, by paying greater heed to Beethoven’s sotto voce marking, Gabetta creates a real sense of rapturous expectation. Then, of course, there’s the aforementioned Fricsay and his dream team – Anda, Schneiderhan and Fournier – who give us gravitas with a grin.
In the ﬁrst movement of the so-called Gassenhauer Trio, I was taken aback by how freely Angelich, Gastinel and clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer play with the tempo, particularly following such a rhythmically sure-footed interpretation of the concerto. The featherweight, frothy texture they produce is delightful but, combined with Angelich’s constant fussing over details, they seem to be skittering unsteadily over the music’s surface. The musicians have a surer grip in the Adagio, although I do wish the phrasing wasn’t so choppy. Jacqueline du Pré (EMI) phrases through the rests, as a singer would. And in the ﬁnal set of variations, I ﬁnd du Pré, de Peyer and Barenboim’s Gemütlichkeit more gratifying than Gastinel & co’s manic giddiness.