One of the best recordings of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 04/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While this fine recording won't replace those I have of Arrau, Kempff, Kovacevich or Perahia as soloists, this is still one worth owning. Although Brendel doesn't quite give as vibrant or warm a performance as his early 1980's Philips recording with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it remains among his best. Brendel's playing isn't as dramatic as Arrau's or Kempff's, but it is replete with tension of its own, such as the opening themes of the first and third movements. Brendel knows when to unleash his emotions, without forsaking his technical skills at the keyboard. Having spent much time thinking and writing about Beethoven, it isn't surprising that he gives a very thoughtful, compassionate performance of this concerto. If you can acquire two recordings of Brendel's performances of this concerto, then do get this CD along with his 1980's version.Bernard Haitink and the London Philharmonic give a performance as memorable as any that Haitink has had with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His conducting is rich with compassion and understanding for Beethoven's music, and never once does he or the orchestra get in the way of Brendel's playing. This is yet another fine example why Haitink is one of our great interpreters of Beethoven.Philips' engineers did an outstanding job in producing this well-balanced recording, among their finest late analogue recordings. I'm not sure whether the latest advances in digital sound enhancement could vastly improve its sound quality. I was quite amazed to hear the superb clarity of sound coming from flutes and oboes. I have to recommend this recording for its excellent sound quality as well as for its fine performance."