New Releases: Beethoven Concertos, Bach's Brandenburgs, Rossini Overtures

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After having neglected Beethoven in his younger years, Leif Ove Andsnes is making up for lost time. The latest installment of his concerto cycles is among our albums of the week, along with new recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos and some rarely-heard Rossini overtures.

"The Beethoven Journey”: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4
Leif Ove Andsnes
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Sony Classical
Available at

Yes, the title may seem a tad grandiose for a single CD, or even a concerto cycle, of which this is a part. But these performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 live up to the standard that Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes set with his previous recording of the Beethoven Concertos Nos. 1 & 3, released in 2012. As Andsnes indicates in the liner notes, this album was delayed due to the premature birth of his twin children, Erlend and Ingvild (both of whom are now doing fine). Whether a kind of childlike wonder comes through in moments was inspired by personal circumstances is difficult to say but the performances have moments of depth, majesty and joyous enthusiasm, all backed by the attentive Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

On Wednesday, Andsnes will come to Carnegie Hall for an all-Beethoven program. Below is his performance of the "Waldstein" Sonata, recorded in 2012 in The Greene Space at WQXR.

J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Harmonia Mundi

You might think that the last thing the world needs is another recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos but the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra has a particular affinity for these six popular pieces. The conductorless period-instrument ensemble, founded in 1997, made a DVD of these works in 2001, recorded in the room for which Bach possibly intended them; the orchestra in now on a Bach world tour to promote the new recording. There’s much to admire here including the bravura harpsichord playing of Torsten Johann, the warm oboe sound of Ann-Kathrin Bruggenmann and the nimble piccolo trumpet playing of Jaroslav Roucek.


Rossini Overtures, Vol. 4
Prague Sinfonia Orchestra
Christian Benda
Available at

Last June we introduced you to Vol. 2 of the Prague Sinfonia’s four-CD series of Rossini’s complete overtures. Now comes the finale, and it’s packed with some of the composer’s less familiar opera openers. Included are rarities like the overtures to Bianca e Falliero, Armida, Torvaldo e Dorliska and Ricciardo e Zoraide, all of which typify the composer’s wit and charm. But not all is obscure here: the album opens with the beloved Overture to the Barber of Seville.