Ludwig van Beethoven: Triple Concerto; Symphony No. 5
Despite the two works' closeness in time of composition and common tonal orientation around C, the contrasts between Ludwig van Beethoven's "Triple Concerto in C major" and his "Symphony No. 5 in C minor" are the subject of this 2012 Sony release by the Knights. This New York chamber orchestra has played Beethoven on a few occasions, but this is the first time it has devoted an album to his works, and the match-up is instructive and appealing. The cheerful nature and genial camaraderie of the "Triple Concerto" is quite at odds with the obsessively driven mood of the "Fifth Symphony," and the differences between a concertante work, which is by definition a show piece, and a symphony, which is more of an essay, are easy to grasp. But Beethoven is certainly identifiable in both works, and the aim of the Knights is to make the totality of his expression evident, whether in the amiable, conversational vein that violinist Colin Jacobsen, cellist Jan Vogler, and pianist Antti Siirala explore in the "Triple Concerto," or in the pugnacious, take-no-prisoners style of conductor Eric Jacobsen in the "Fifth." In both works, the music is played with great passion and brio, and fans of the Knights' melding of mainstream and period techniques and timbres will find the playing is a happy medium between the two schools of thought. The trio is quite closely recorded, so its sound is boomier than the rest of the ensemble, and some intonation slip-ups, scrappy passagework, and incidental noises are evident. The recording of the "Fifth," however, is free of mishaps.