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The German pianist Lars Vogt, born in 1970, is an admirably even-tempered, middle-of-the-road interpreter. He was matched too young a quarter-century ago with Simon Rattle, then in a smark-alecky phase of his conducting career, in less-than- gripping recordings of Beethoven’s Concertos Nos 1 and 2 (EMI 72462) as well as concertos by Grieg and Schumann (EMI 7547462). It is good to have the more mature artist’s viewpoint on Beethoven here, despite the decisive competition. Not having a flashy young Rattle around as ill-suited accompanist may help, but the right solution may not be in conducting from the keyboard: the Royal Northern Sinfonia creeps along timidly at times at its music director’s behest. Vogt has settled into an earnest, sober Teutonic school of pianism, sounding akin to Christian Zacharias, if rather less poetic or individualistic.

Always highly able at the keyboard, Vogt sounds rather anonymous in these works. Playing some movements slower or faster than usual does not suffi ce in terms of message. The finale of the Concerto No 1, marked Rondo: Allegro Scherzando, is excessively rushed, leaving scant time for any required playfulness; and the preceding Largo it is bloated into near-stasis.

Despite Ondine’s fine sound engineering, the performance lacks an element of risk-taking that might have vivified the proceedings, making it temperamentally akin to the old lager lout Ludwig himself. The recordings were made in 2016-17 at Sage Gateshead, apparently not during a concert performance. Vogt might be one performer who would benefit from an audience’s presence at recording sessions, to add an otherwise missing spark.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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