"This is the most compelling version of the Brahms Piano Concerto that i have ever heard. Rudolf Serkin and George Szell made many recordings together but none as imposing as this one. The 1st movement resembles the apocalypse with the Cleveland Strings lashing out the very first notes and Rudolf Serkin responding like a cobra striking his prey. Conviction and authority maintain this intensity throughout this movement. Serkin plays the adagio with supreme concentration and wonderful phrasing resulting in an inner depth that is mesmerizing. You feel as if nothing else exists or is of significance except the music at hand. Time stands still for just a moment. The 3rd movement has Serkin playing with a sparkling precision and power that is captivating. Serkin and Szell battle it out thru the counterpoint of this titanic movement which concludes in a unity of the forces displayed."
A mighty interpretation of one of the great piano concertos!
demien | U.S.A. | 11/18/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Serkin and Szell perform as if their life depended on it. Serkin provides power and majesty in the 1st and last movements..delicacy and tenderness elsewhere. Cleveland offers sharp ensemble as usual but Szell lets the music flow freely... No slave to his usual anal demand of precision and nothing more. Magnificent! you will not find a better version. Brahm's vision is brought forth in this shining collaboration. o.f."
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 11/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If I had to put together a short list of candidates for 'greatest piano concerto recording ever' or some such inanity, this Brahms D minor would have to be on it. For good measure we also get two of the fine 'Introduction-and-Allegro' pieces by Mendelssohn and Schumann, easily of the quality of their piano concertos. It's harder to compare these performances with others, because sadly the pieces are little played, but any of us who know greatness when we hear it are not going to lose much sleep worrying that there might be 'better' performances out there somewhere.
Forget Serkin for a moment, the orchestras cover themselves with glory. In the Mendelssohn and Schumann it's the Philadelphia under Ormandy, in the Brahms it's Szell and the Cleveland. Mendelssohn's credentials as an orchestrator are eminent, Schumann's, to say the least, are less so; but if he could just find a solo instrument (particularly his beloved piano) to accompany he seemed to lose his stiffness, and the orchestral writing in this Introduction and Allegro Appassionato can stand up in any company. These days we do not hear much of the cloth-eared criticism of Brahms's orchestration that used to be commonplace, so there is such a thing as human progress. On paper the start of the D minor concerto looks dodgy, with only half the band playing. After all this is a very early effort with no precedent for its style -- but get the right conductor in the right mood and you get the right result. The sound, no less than the concept, is shattering.
This Brahms performance is said to date from 1968. I don't believe that! I may be mistaken, but this seems to be the identical performance that I bought around 1960 on the the strength of a review 2 or 3 years before. On the 1960 vinyl there was a lot of surface noise that spoiled my enjoyment, so I bought this disc and -- hallelujah -- it's the same performance (I think) and the obtrusive noise has gone.
The noises that remain are from an idea by Brahms brought to you by Professor Serkin and Dr Szell. Serkin's command of rhythm, phrasing and timing are really as phenomenal and unique as Michelangeli's better-trailed tone-quality. Serkin's own tone-quality, especially in his earlier years (up to say 1960) is also very hard to mistake, and as a rough and inadequate generalisation 'handsome' rather than 'beautiful' could be the word. Well, my idea of beauty easily takes in Serkin's sound. More than that, here and there in his recordings you will hear some of the most extraordinary sound-effects in all 20th century piano-playing, and the start of the Mendelssohn piece on this disc is one of them. But the big thing on this disc is the Brahms. There is a cryptic remark about Brahms on the sleeve of the vinyl version calling him 'this uncompromising and still poorly-understood genius'. That's brilliant, but maybe it can be expanded. He has always been widely understood at the irrational level, as music of such stupefying greatness is bound to be understood. At the intellectual level the critical gabble about him has demeaned the human intellect. If you are new, or even open-minded, to the composer and the main interpreter here, let this recording take you over. I envy you."
Classical interpretation, beautiful & sublime
David Kim | High Point, NC | 01/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My impression is that Rudolf Serkins (who is arguably one of the greatest 20th century pianists) plays the Brahms concerto in a very classical manner. I think this is consistent with the manner of the composition and what Brahms envisioned. (It certainly stands in stark contrast to the lyrical second piano concerto.) The classical interpretation is especially apparent in the final movement, where Serkin plays the legato detache notes with greater discipline than many contemporary pianists.
This is not to say that the interpretation is stiff, for Serkin has a flowing touch. What the listener will find is an exacting performance of Bach-like serenity and regularity (remember Brahms worshipped Bach, and often compared his own pieces with Bach's and Beethoven's - often to his dismay). Serkins also demonstrates his beautifully lyrical touch in the cascading melodies of Shumann's Introduction & Allegro."
My favorite Brahms recording
HB | Fort Mill, SC | 03/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I only have two recordings of the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. Both are legendary and have the same conductor, George Szell. The earlier of the two recordings has Clifford Curzon as soloist. It may be legendary but I find the performance to be a neurotic mess. This Serkin recording, on the other hand, is simply wonderful, perfect in every way. I was lucky enough to hear the live performance in Severance Hall just before it was recorded. That performance was even better than this recording. If you can find this recording, buy it. You won't regret it."