Sometimes the best records get made with no foresight whatsoever

Sometimes the best records get made with no foresight whatsoever


norman lebrecht

September 27, 2019

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Sometimes the best records get made with no foresight whatsoever. As part of his label switch from Sony Classical it had been planned that Murray Perahia would record the five concertos for the Beethoven year, live in Berlin where he had concerts scheduled with the visiting Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Then Perahia suffered a recurrent hand injury and had to be replaced by the Canadian Jan Lisiecki. The DG team were already booked for the recording so they went ahead, And, what do you know, the results were better than expected.

Much better….

Read on here.

And here.


  • msc says:

    I would like to know how the recordings would have turned out if Perahia had stayed on as conductor, since Lisiecki has little experience in that role.

  • Karl says:

    Jan Lisiecki is an excellent pianist. I’ve heard him play many times in concert. I don’t know why expectations would be low.

  • Good Student says:

    “the results were better than expected.” Did they have no expectations whatsoever? perhaps a trash can? Because if so, then you are right, It is slightly better.
    Right, he did not make competitions, which was the smart move. I mean, have you seen the contestants on those you mentioned? they can actually play, have you not noticed?
    There is no reason not to like him, if one decides to be honest on what kind of musician he is, a good student. Not the best student, but a good one.

    If DG so desperately wants to catch a new audience for their records why don’t they have a sub category of their label, “good students category” where they can finally fit him in. They can even make him their leader. -Still would not be their best-

  • Tön says:

    This album is dreadfully recorded and mixed even worse. The engineers at DG should be beyond humiliated at this effort. They destroyed first rate performances by Lisiecki (not quite as stellar from the orchestra). Hopefully Jan will get a chance to make decent recordings of these pieces down the road.

  • sam says:


    I just listened to the 5th. I wasn’t going to click on this link, but thanks NL for bringing the recording to our attention.

    Every phrase, every line, was original and personal, had a point of view. To record the complete Beethoven cycle at 24 is an astonishing feat (on DG no less), I don’t know who else has done it as that age, but to do it with a distinctive voice and stamp on it, despite the zillions of recordings out there, is all the more astounding.

    As for the pairing with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, there were many times in the first movement where the orchestra just wasn’t there with him, but in the second, there were more hand-in-glove, the orchestra pairing was meant for Perahia, but hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, it’s all manna from heaven for young Lisiecki.

    Lisiecki could get idiosyncratic, like his sudden descent into pianissimo that I’m not sure is in the score and that no orchestra can follow, like in the first movement solo with horns, he’s almost inaudibly pianissimo, there’s no way the horns even from Vienna or Berlin could (or should) follow him to that volume. I hope it doesn’t turn into a mannerism.

    Often times, he sacrifices overall architecture for phrasal effect, it works beautifully for that line, but you wonder, hmmm, is it really what the movement as a whole is doing.

    This recording cycle is probably a year or two too early, it would’ve benefitted from more maturing together in concert. But, hey, it’s all manna right, anyway, a documentation he can be proud of that he can compare to in later recordings, which I’m sure will also come.

  • sam says:

    Corrected: I guess he made the recording at 23, in 2018.

  • Pete says:

    I enjoyed these performances, but the promotional video (showing the entire last movement of #2) does not show Lisiecki doing any conducting at all. Either all of the conducting happened in rehearsal, or the ASMF managed the orchestral performance like the conductorless Orpheus CO.

  • Mikewillis says:

    I also enjoyed these performances for their freshness and unaffected style. Each concerto had character and life. His tone was lovely. I did feel that a stronger conducting presence would have been good. Also at times the recording seemed to favour woodwinds compared to strings. But there was this fresh youthful enthusiasm and life which I really liked.

  • john Borstlap says:

    I listened to a couple of recordings and obviously this chap is very gifted, with a beautiful toucher. But in terms of musical personality, there is not much substance (hence his love of Mendelssohn piano works? I cannot think of something more restricted and thin), so we can only hope that in 40 years time he will have developed into a truly great musician.