Reviews, News and Commentary

NZSO and Paul Lewis perform Beethoven’s piano concertos

John Daly-Peoples

Paul Lewis

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Paul Lewis, The Beethoven Piano Concertos

Auckland Town Hall

August 12 – 14

Beethoven never got to play all of his own piano concertos as he was severely deaf by the time he had composed his fifth concerto. However next month the acclaimed English pianist Paul Lewis will perform the composers entire Piano Concerto cycle in three back-to-back concerts in Auckland with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

The pianist who is highly regarded for his interpretations of Beethoven’s piano works, joins the NZSO directly from the United States just days after performing the Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle at the prestigious Tanglewood festival with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a separate solo recital at the Aspen Music Festival.

The concerts which will be performed August 12 – 14, exclusively in Auckland, are understood to be the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand that all Beethoven Piano Concertos will have been performed  over three consecutive days.

Beethoven composed the five piano concertos over a twenty two year period between the late 1780’s and 1809 and his  affinity for rhythm and a desire to display a vibrant defiant energy shows in these works, all of which he initially conceived as vehicles for himself to perform. Given Beethoven’s hearing loss, which occurred gradually over two decades, it is no surprise that he connected most viscerally to rhythmic themes, which he could perceive through vibrations.

With these works Beethoven essentially declared the composer’s artistic imperative to make music that reflects the personal rather than the general.

Gemma New Image – Ray Cox

NZSO Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor Gemma New will lead the Orchestra for all three concerts, which are part of the NZSO’s Immerse 2022 festival in association with The New Zealand  Herald (

Lewis knows Beethoven’s Piano Concerto cycle well and  was the first pianist to perform all five concertos at the  BBC Proms more than a decade ago when the Financial Times reviewer noted that “His Beethoven is a classy fellow, with considerable stature and depth, but meeting him can be a more soothing experience than one imagines. this fiery, cantankerous composer was in real life. In the Piano Concerto No.1 Lewis’s playing exhibited an exemplary sense of balance and finesse .

His later recording of the cycle with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was hailed by Gramophone magazine as “civilized, musically responsible and vital playing”.

“There’s definitely some kind of journey from the first to the last piano concerto,” Lewis has said. “I think it tells us very specific and valuable things about Beethoven. Each piece is completely unique.”

For Reverence, the second of the three concerts, New also leads the Orchestra for New Zealand composer Tabea Squire’s work Variations. For the third concert, Emperor, the programme finale is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.


Auckland Town Hall, Friday 12th  August, 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4


Auckland Town Hall, Saturday 13 August, 7.30pm


BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3


Auckland  Town Hall, Sunday 14August 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5


By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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