Classical: Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 4 & 5



John Bingham, Piano
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Choo Hoey Meridian 84172


In the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's 35th year, it is perhaps timely to revive the fortunes of this, the orchestra's first and only Beethoven recording.

Amazingly, this 1989 release of Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos with the late British pianist John Bingham, former head of piano at Trinity College, is still available for sale.

Occasionally remembered as the SSO's "forgotten" disc, this also happened to be its first recording of mainstream repertory, and the first for a Britain-based label.

Choo Hoey had already trained the orchestra to be a more-than-competent accompanist and the results are palpable, with full-blooded tuttis and sensitive playing in the central slow movements.

Bingham (1942-2003) studied with Stanislav Neuhaus at the Moscow Conservatory and was a rising name in concert circles.

His trenchant and totally musical readings of both concertos are tempered by the marginally over-sharp tuning on the piano.

Although greater recordings of both works are in plentiful supply, this one is more than just for die-hard SSO collectors and sentimentalists.


This CD is available at $23 (excluding postage and packaging) from

Obscure classics


Hyperion 67905


The Piano Quintet In G Minor by Polish composer Juliusz Zarebski (1854-1885) has gained a measure of popularity thanks to two recent recordings by Argentine-born virtuoso Martha Argerich.

This recognition outside of Poland is belated for this one-time favourite student of Franz Liszt, who died from tuberculosis shortly after completing the work, which was published only in 1931.

The music, though unabashedly Romantic, is harmonically adventurous, not least in the piquant Scherzo and Finale, which share the same thematic material but go down totally different paths.

The Piano Quartet In C Minor by compatriot Wladislaw Zelenski (1837-1921) is more conventional, stemming from its influences by Schumann and Brahms.

However, a melancholy typical of Slavic character pervades, and the memorable opening theme could easily have come from the young Rachmaninov.

British pianist and specialist in Polish music Jonathan Plowright is well supported by the Szymanowski Quartet from Poland, and the performances of both works are exemplary for their passion and emotional sweep.


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