Two Beethoven Second Piano Concertos - Wührer & Seemann

Two Beethoven Second Piano Concertos - Wührer & Seemann

Two performanes in the old style of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto today: Friedrich Wührer with the Pro Musica Orchestra, Stuttgart under Walther Davisson and Carl Seemann with the Symphony Orchestra of the North German Radio under István Kertész.

The Wührer Vox performance is at full price at Amazon, something of a risk (Vox pricing has historically meandered from budget to full price).

Although there is only eight second between the timings of the two first movments of this concerto, it is Wührer and the Stuttgart orchestra that have a touch ore life in the first movement. There is an extra freshness to the players’ phrasing under Davisson.

Wührer was a man of many talents in music, editing  the music of Franz Schmidt and arranging the left-hand only piano music for two hands(see this post for an article on Classical Explorer around that compsoer's music). Friends with both Pfitzner and Reger, he was known for his allegiance to the music of the Second Viennese School.  His Beethoven is beautifully stylish, clear of texture and clean of intent, and I like the transparency that Davisson gets from his Stuttgart orchestra.

Friedrich Wührer

Perhaps Wührer’s cadenza is a touch too careful in places, but it builds to a powerful climax. His playing is always perfectly controlled - Friedrich Wührer is very much a pianist’s pianist:

The slow movement is an absolute dream - probably the finest of the performances of this movement covered by Classical Explorer this far. Wührer's cantabile sings, the music moves perfectly (faster than one might expenct from this provenance; although only 16 seconds faster than Seemann, the emotional distance is marked):

There is a slightly limited frequency range in the louder moments, it is true, but that is an emnently satisfying reading.  The finale seems to have a chamber music aspect to it, and what could be interpreted as a wiry aspect to the string sound here seems to emphasise clarity and lightness of texture. Some might find this a touch slow: Wührer is a full minute more than Seeman here, but there is plenty of Beethovenian character (and Wührer's awareness of inner lines is exemplary):

The Wikipedia article on Friedrich Wührer is definitely worth citing, as it includes a fine discography of this pianist. Unfortnately the discography omits dates: the original LP of Wührer’s Beethoven Second (Vox PL9570) was released in 1956. There is also another CD incarnation, on Tahra, as part of an all-Beethoven four-disc set entitled Back from the Shadows (TAH 704-707).

And so to Carl Seemann (1910-83). The record company Orfeo has released a boxed set of his recordings, of which this is one volume (also available seperately - I've put both Amazon links below this post).

This is proper old-style playing and performance: HIP is not even a dot on the horizon. It is mainly Seemann's playing that enlivens this first movement; Kertész and his forces seem rather sluggish every time they come into the spotlight. Unsurprisingly in the light of that, Seemann’s solo cadenza (sol, without orchestra) is fabulous:

The slow movement  Adagio seems to add a ‘molto’ for good measure), but offers a nicely disciplined orchestra under Kertész. Interestingly, it is in the soliloquising passage towards the end of the movement that the music really takes off, and Seemann again completely comes into his own:

The finale has plenty of life, a proper Molto Allegro, as Beethoven prescribes. It is worth putting up with the rather scrawny orchestral sound here for Seemann's insights and to apprecate his clear finger-strength (articulation is perfectly judged):

Amazingly, the single-disc Seeman is only £4.99 new currently at Amazon; his couplings are the E-Major Piano Sonata, Op. 14/1 (the one many people know from their piano Grade 8's!) and the wonderful but under-appreciated Six Bagatelles, Op. 126. You can also purchase this as part of a fine seven-disc box dedicated to Seeman, again at highly reasonable price (link also below).