FANFARE MAGAZINE

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 3 • Phillip Kawin (pn); Gerard Schwarz, cond; Russian Natl O • MASTER PERFORMERS 19 001 (DVD and Blu-ray: 38:02)

Approximately three minutes into the Allegro con brio, pianist Phillip Kawin commences his graceful and generous performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto. With minimal melodrama and more playfulness and joy, the piece is highly colorful and emotive—the flutes, woodwinds, and French horns seem to hover somewhere near the ceiling, circling the orchestra with repeating melodies and themes. In the midst of these braided and traded musical threads, Kawin is grounded and focused, his posture almost curling into the instrument. Throughout the concerto, Kawin is generous with his performance and conscientious in working with the orchestra, rather than attempting to lead too much or to rise above its incredible sound and driving power. This conscientiousness is evident in Kawin’s consistency of tone throughout the first movement. He maintains a steady medium volume, so that the orchestra has the room to meet conductor Gerard Schwarz’s demands for increased speed and dynamics. In fact, by the cadenza of the Allegro con brio (at about 13:30), Kawin finally adds a bit more volume and dynamics to showcase his range and dexterity, seamlessly ascending and descending the keyboard, and eventually quieting to return to the theme and bring the orchestra back for the movement’s conclusion.

Within the first few notes of the Largo (18:03), the playfulness and joy of the first movement has given way to a contemplative, thoughtful melody. Kawin begins this movement, setting a tone and feeling that the orchestra expands into an almost dreamlike, romantic space. This is probably my favorite movement of the concerto and the performance. Schwarz and Kawin are so completely unified in their intentions that the movement almost takes on the qualities of a chamber ensemble.Where the second movement demonstrated the quiet delicacy of Kawin’s pianissimo, the third movement clearly demonstrates the impressive grandeur of his forte. The Rondo-Allegro (27:30) hearkens back to the playfulness of the first movement, but more clearly separates the return to theme in the rondo form.

Aside from my enjoyment of the performance, I do have one criticism about the filming. Mainly, I found that the number of angles and the frequency with which the filmmaker alternated between those angles was rather distracting. This distraction is unfortunate because the performance was very compelling and masterful. I’m not an expert filmmaker (by any means), but I think the frequency of the angle switching was possibly a tactic to make the performance more interesting visually (there was some fervent switching between the conductor and the soloist for some portions of the concerto). Perhaps if the filmmaker had settled into only a few different angles, transitioning only occasionally between the soloist or the conductor and the other musicians, the performance would have been easier to view and ultimately to experience. In other words, I want to see a performance (especially one that is filmed) from an ideal perspective, not from all angles and all possible perspectives.

Despite this minor flaw (and perhaps a lack of menu options, such as the option to play each movement individually), Kawin and Schwarz give an excellent performance of Beethoven’s piano concerto. Kawin’s cadenzas are particularly nuanced and fluid; the Russian National Orchestra gives a complex and emotionally multilayered performance as well.

FANFARE: Jacqueline Kharouf

Copyright © 2020 by Fanfare Inc.

More Reviews

International Piano / No. 59 September 2019

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor Op 37

Phillip Kawin (pf): Russian National Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz

Master Performers 19.001 – DVD & Blu-ray

Phillip Kawin’s performances are always deeply considered: he follows in a lineage from Cortot and was influenced by Dora Zaslavsky Koch, a student of Bauer and Backhaus...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Ludwig van Beethoven

iano Concerto No. 3 • Phillip Kawin (pn); Gerard Schwarz, cond; Russian Natl O • MASTER PERFORMERS 19 001 (DVD and Blu-ray: 38:02)

My last review of Phillip Kawin’s work (40:3) praised Kawin’s “subtlety, maturity, individuality, and musicality.” I have much the same reaction to his playing of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. He makes one tasteful, sensitive choice after another throughout his performance of the piece...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 3 • Phillip Kawin (pn); Gerard Schwarz, cond; Russian Natl O • MASTER PERFORMERS 19 001 (DVD and Blu-ray: 38:02)

A new video release on the Master Performers label features a rendition of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3, recorded in January of 2018 at Moscow’s Rachmaninov Concert Hall...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 3 • Phillip Kawin (pn); Gerard Schwarz, cond; Russian Natl O • MASTER PERFORMERS 19 001 (DVD and Blu-ray: 38:02)

Sometimes I regret that I don’t know everything. Oh, I’ve claimed that I do often enough; but usually the person I am talking to suddenly walks quickly across the street and pretends to be intensely studying the manure display in the window of the farm supplies store...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Franz Schubert

Piano Sonata in a, D 845. 3 Klavierstücke, D 946 • Phillip Kawin (pn) • MASTER PERFORMERS 15 001 (69:41)

In the illuminating interview that serves as the program note for this release, Phillip Kawin clearly sets out his musical priorities: structural proportion and “balance between the many diverse elements,” coupled with a rich tone and singing legato. Those priorities emerge just as clearly in these finely poised and self-possessed performances, elegant in their touch, graceful in their phrasing (few sharp edges here), artful in their voicing...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Franz Schubert

Piano Sonata in a, D 845. 3 Klavierstücke, D 946 • Phillip Kawin (pn) • MASTER PERFORMERS 15 001 (69:41)

Every English-speaking person can recite Shakespeare’s “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer …” but only a handful are able to make the words do what they are supposed to do. So it is that thousands of pianists can play all the right notes in the most formidable works of Liszt and Chopin, but...View more

FANFARE MAGAZINE

Franz Schubert

Piano Sonata in a, D 845. 3 Klavierstücke, D 946 • Phillip Kawin (pn) • MASTER PERFORMERS 15 001 (69:41)

We’re accustomed as reviewers to mention when a set of program notes is insightful or well written. Both are true for the notes to this Schubert album from Phillip Kawin, an admired faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, a Schubert specialist as a performer, and an in-demand lecturer...   View more

Contact Phillip Kawin

© 2020 by Phillip Kawin