Throughout, not a note is out of place during these invigorating and searching readings

Beethoven’s Five Piano Concertos Album reviews08 May 2023

“…whenever [Sir Donald Runnicles] and [Garrick] Ohlsson collaborate, time is never spent in conversation beforehand about tempos, phrasing or other details. They simply begin making music together and thus, in an exercise of intuitive symbiosis, arrive at their joint interpretation. The result, as heard here, is a spacious, unrushed account of these canonic works, forthright and yet deeply personal.

Of all pianists before the public today, Ohlsson’s technique is among the most honest. Every note is present and accounted for, nothing ever fudged, all within an exquisitely calculated proportionality. His approach is, above all, lyrical. In fact, listening to the slow movements of these concertos, one would be hard-pressed to name another performance that sings with greater contour, poise and clarity.…

My favourite of this set, however, is the Fourth. Here soloist and conductor outdo themselves in the execution of Beethoven’s subtlest expression. Orchestral balances are exquisite, drama abounds, the finale is fairly rollicking and Ohlsson plumbs the depths of the Andante con moto with the utmost simplicity. This is a bouquet of Beethoven concertos like no other.”

Gramophone (Editor’s Choice, June 2023)

“Garrick Ohlsson’s view of the canon reaffirms this authority as a discerning Beethovenian with noble things to impart…The freshness of these performances, from the 2022 Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, lies in their open-faced honesty. Gleamingly, they promise us the certainty that no note or angle will be misplaced, that the adventure of what Beethoven penned – rhythm, articulation, dynamics, texture – is what we’ll get. … Impeccable clarity and architecture, enveloping gran espressione (the Second’s Adagio), palatial tonal depth, sculpted sonority and thespian sovereignty are hallmarks of the music-making…Runnicles, as you’d expect, excels, on the one hand precision concerto partner, on the other powerful symphonist…the lines of the Lucerne or Estonian initiatives, the hand-picked Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra set first-class standards…the recording is classically purist and invitingly ambient…A rejuvenating investment.”

International Piano

“To perform all five Beethoven piano concertos as a cycle is to ascend one of the repertoire’s proverbial Everest-like peaks…a winning combination of factors sets apart this new contender by Garrick Ohlsson with Sir Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival…an inspired collaboration of strong-willed personalities…Combine all that with the superb quality of the engineering from the Reference Recordings label and this cycle, which the GTMF has chosen for its first commercial release, is in a class of its own.

The deeply grounded partnership between Ohlsson and Runnicles results in performances powered by a bracing, dynamic complementarity. It allows for distinctive priorities from Runnicles that at the same time enhance Ohlsson’s unwavering but always changing role as protagonist.…‘

But what may come as a surprise is the degree of rapport between Ohlsson and the GTMF Orchestra. It sounds like they’ve been playing together for years – not merely twice before. Runnicles, whose close bond with these musicians has long been a reliable source of strength and even identiy for the festival itself, returns to the image of a great singer working with an orchestra. ‘What informs his playing is not just phenomenal virtuosity and a phenomenal brain, but his love of singing. He’s trying to sound like the greatest singer in the world.’

Beethoven’s slow movements, in particular, are thus transformed into ‘glorious, long arias, with a continuity to the phrasing.…

‘With Garrick, I have the sense that you’re not even listening to him any more but you’re just listening to Beethoven,’ says Muenzer. He seemed to hit the sweet spot of allowing us to imagine that this is what Beethoven heard in his mind, even though we know modern instruments are being played. If this were the last recording I made, I would be thrilled. It happens to comprise the truest arrows, all of which hit the bullseye in every respect.’”

Gramophone (Feature)

“Ohlsson is never complacent, especially with these Beethoven works he must have played many times. From the first notes of Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, to the final joyous music-making of the “Emperor”, Ohlsson beguiles the listener with flawless technique and sparkling tone…

Kevin Harbison’s recording captures every scintilla of Ohlsson’s tone and phrasing. Good recordings capture the player, here we get a deep look into Ohlsson’s superior musicianship. A couple of times I listened to the three CDs with no break. Ohlsson’s consistency is enviable and I was never less than captivated…

After a few hours of glorious music-making, you’ll arrive at the mighty Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, and mighty it sounds. Ohlsson’s sound rings deep into the soundstage and his technique is sure-footed. A fabulous performance to cap off a great cycle…The orchestra is a wonderful accompanist throughout and Runnicles negotiates the conducting difficulties, especially the 4th and 5th (pizzicato timing) superbly well…Very highly recommended.”


“…the ‘Emperor’, a majestic account with considered conducting, a lively orchestra, and fastidious solos from Ohlsson, an architect, a lyricist, and a dynamic purveyor of the notes, the sort of address that takes the listener into the music without performer artifice or intervention for its own sake; thus No.5 is essayed with character, a trust in – and a focus on – the music, and vivid communication, the well-balanced recording capturing enthusiastic camaraderie between the musicians and the resulting spontaneous music-making, the slow movement being especially sublime, and the Finale an exhilarating and rhythmically vital ride, nicely modulated along the way.

The B-flat Concerto… receives a sparkling and shapely outing, here owing more to Haydn than to Mozart without diminishing Beethoven’s ‘new kid’ identity, so fresh in the outer movements (the Finale delightfully articulate and perky), so deep in the central one; and it’s similar for the C-major – second if First – while acknowledging its greater scope, the grandeur of the first movement, presented ideally by Runnicles, complemented by Ohlsson and then confirmed by him by unleashing the longest of Beethoven’s three cadenzas, displayed consummately; five minutes later the orchestra returns. The Largo is raptly expressed, lovely clarinet solos from Eugene Mondie, and the Finale is frolicsome, the jazzy episode high-spirited.


Throughout, not a note is out of place during these invigorating and searching readings… a collection of performances that revive the appetite for these works while denying any notion that they can ever be taken for granted.”

Collin’s Column