Simon Rattle's new EMI set of Beethoven's Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic has garnered much press, but some attention should be reserved for this collection of Beethoven's Piano Concertos.

Simon Rattle's new EMI set of Beethoven's Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic has garnered much press, but some attention should be reserved for this collection of Beethoven's Piano Concertos. Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is renowned as an interpreter of 20th-century music, as in Messiaen and Ligeti. With typical counterintuitive élan, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt chose Aimard for a new-minted approach to these oft-recorded works. Comparisons between this release and Rattle's 1999 EMI set with Vienna and the august Alfred Brendel are instructive. Aimard's recorded sound is upfront and incisive; Brendel's is more integrated and "golden." The Viennese offer the grandly beautiful option, while the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is a lithe, excitable creature. Both sets have their charms, yet those who want a fresh slant on these pieces should seek no further.—BB