The Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos

Garrick Ohlsson, Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Sir Donald Runnicles

(1 customer review)

Over three hours of music!

Original Recording Format: PCM 192 kHz
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Fabulous playing by both the soloist and the orchestra has been perfectly caught by engineer Kevin Harbison and producer Victor Muenzer. You’ll want to put the “Emperor” on and just fall in! These performances just might be the ones you’ve been looking for of all the Concertos.
– Bill Dodd, NativeDSD Senior Reviewer
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Reference Recordings is proud to present The Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos played by Grammy®-­winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson, performing with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles. This Triple Album featuring over 3 hours of music was recorded during live Festival performances in July 2022.

Garrick Ohlsson is especially noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire. He is a student of the late Claudio Arrau, To­ date, he is the only American ever to win first prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition. This new recording represents a pinnacle in his career.

More than 60 years since its humble beginnings performing in a tent at the base of the Tetons, the Grand Teton Festival is now sought after for both listeners and performers alike as a destination to experience the finest in classical music throughout the summer.

The Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra consists of top talent from across the world, including more than 220 musicians from 90 orchestras and 65 institutions of higher learning, many performing together each summer for over 25 years. The Festival, founded in 1962, also welcomes yearly some of the most sought-after soloists and visiting artists in classical music today. Under the baton of world-­renowned conductor Sir Donald Runnicles since 2005, these musicians come together to gather inspiration from the mountain setting and to provide spectacular music for Festival audiences.

Garrick Ohlsson, Piano
Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra
Sir Donald Runnicles, Conductor


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 - I Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 - II Largo
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 - III Rondo-Allegro
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major, Op. 19 - I Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major, Op. 19 - II Adagio
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major, Op. 19 - III Rondo-Allegro molto
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 - I Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 - II Largo
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 - III Rondo-Allegro
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 - I Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 - II Andante con moto
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 - III Rondo Vivace
Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb Major “Emperor”, Op. 73 - I Allegro
Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb Major “Emperor”, Op. 73 - II Adagio un poco moto
Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb Major “Emperor”, Op. 73 - III Rondo-Allegro, ma non troppo
Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43

Total time: 03:05:41

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Original Recording Format

Release DateMay 12, 2023

Press reviews

Issuing a complete set of Piano concerti of a composer of the stature of Ludwig van Beethoven is an act of great courage. Even if we try to restrict the number to those that have appeared as a set on SACD, it still is over 22. Deducting reissues of non-hi-res originals brings us to a more manageable number of 6 to choose from, this one included. Arguably a crooked yardstick. As if new is always better. There must be something else. If you are a first-time buyer you might select one with a great review. But there are so many having been well received over the years. Another help is: Played by someone you know or recommended by a friend. Regular visitors to this site will surely want a recording with the highest sound quality. And collectors may find satisfaction in getting a set played by their favourite artist, no matter the reviews or sound quality. If none of it applies, it becomes like searching for a needle in a haystack.

But there is another way of looking at it. Some recordings, so it would seem to me, have not been made with commercial reasons as a prime objective. They were made out of love for the music and feelings of complicity by the performers. I think that this new release falls in that category, deserving, therefore, our close attention. Moreover, such motivation does not ask for nor require a detailed analysis of each concerto and each movement therein (lucky me). With that in mind, I’d restrict myself to the intention, the human factor and the overall mood in which this project was brought about, and subsequently, why it is so special.

What the Verbier Festival is for Europe, is (though not a copy-paste affair) the Grand Teton Music Festival in North America (GTMF). Teton Village is a lovely mountain resort in the Rockies, near Jackson, Wyoming. Concerts are given in the Walk Festival Hall in Jackson Hole, WY. Apart from being a festival, as there are many other summer get-togethers for musicians and audiences, both play a wider role in musical life, like providing a breeding ground for young and upcoming talent. What sets GTMF apart is that we are dealing with a (and I quote from their website): “super group of more than 220 classical musicians from 75 major orchestras and 55 education institutions around the world (performing) eight weeks of symphonic and chamber music concerts in GTMF’s acclaimed Walk Festival Hall”. Impressive! Well, we are in The States.

Against this background, which is, as I said before, more educational than commercial, the result must be judged accordingly. Long-standing giants like Sir David Runnicles and Garrick Ohlsson, don’t have to prove anything anymore. Their extensive and rewarding international careers say it all. No longer dependent on the moods of critics, they can be themselves and, as we may assume, support wholeheartedly the stars of today and those of tomorrow, making the GTMF one of the finest festivals around. The younger generation is embedded by selected first desks, staffed by principals of major (American) orchestras, and the Concertmaster, David Coucheron, joining in from the same position he has with the Atlanta Symphony. A pretty promising band, I’d say.

So, what are they capable of doing? Don’t expect an ‘angry young men’ performance. For these recordings, technical assistance was provided by music producer Vic Muenzer from Chicago and, among other engineers, Zen Mastering from Vancouver. Using the acoustics of the Walk Festival Hall, the 55-strong orchestra come across as a lush sound body with lots of dark colours. (Five contra-basses on stage). This is, therefore, not for historically informed addicts nor for those speed lovers, who generously allow the soloist to go back home on the previous train.

This is more Beethoven from Memory Lane. Not as heavy-handed as in the sixties, though. Some may call it ‘middle of the road’, but that has a bit of ‘one size fits all’ around it and that is certainly not the case. Garrick Ohlsson’s playing is as good as a Brendel, Kovacevich, or Arrau.

What we get is the fruit of a week’s labour, or should I say ‘joy’, which is condensed and now contained in a 3-SACD’s box, for us to savour. Some will say that there are better sets around and I admit to having a soft spot for Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1, 2 & 4 – Nakamichi / Järvi. But this one is special and clearly good enough for Reference Recordings to issue it in the Fresh! series.

I do hope that many will want to have it, if only with the noble purpose of supporting the future of what this is all about: The pleasure of music-making at the highest level!


In his booklet note to the five Beethoven piano concertos, recorded over the course of a week during July 2022 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Garrick Ohlsson writes: ‘Sixty years ago I learned my first Beethoven concerto and forty-four years ago I finally performed the last of the five.’ He goes on to say that he has performed each of them well over a hundred times. Donald Runnicles adds that whenever he and 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. Harsh or ugly sounds are simply nowhere to be heard, though Ohlsson’s dynamic palette is varied and immense. Trills fairly sparkle and passagework, however exciting, never obtrudes on the critical element of the sonata principle: thematic characterization and development. That Ohlsson is one of the least exhibitionistic of musicians is evident in the cadenzas, which emerge organically from the fabric of the music and seem perfectly integrated into the narrative context. Meanwhile, the concluding rondos seem ready to burst with a sense of elation and sheer fun.

In the C minor Third Concerto, a sense of ebullience outweighs the tragic. The Emperor (No 5) is a resplendent play of light and color, its Adagio a stroll through Elysian fields, with the finale an exercise in kinesthetic delight. My favorite 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.

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1 review for The Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos

    Superb everything about this Beethoven Piano Concertos cycle. A pure joy!

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