Great Piano Concerto Collection
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 07/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the days before I became a serious collector of classical music, I had this title. What a wonderful introduction it was for me, and if all you are looking for is some first rate performances of some of the best loved Piano Concertos ever written, then this disc is for you. Of course, I no longer own this CD, but I still have all of the individual performances (save the Litolff by Dichter/Marriner) on more comprehensive collections -- the Mozart on the Philips Duo of the "Great Mozart Piano Concertos" featuring Brendel and Marriner, the Chopin on the now o.o.p. Clara Haskil Legacy Vol. 2, the Liszt on a recently reissued Philips 50 title, the Beethoven on the new 3CD Universal Trio collection, and the Rach 2 on good old Mercury Living Presence -- and they are still among my favorites. If you buy this set, just be prepared to upgrade like I did."
RUN - not walk - to pick this up!!
Aaron Oh Shuwen | SA, Australia | 10/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this CD set on eBay for less than $2 some time ago. Reviews here on Amazon are usually written by people who buy the CD from Amazon, but this set has brought me so much pleasure that I am obliged to - nay, MUST - write a review here to spread the word. :)
I have been a classical aficionado for the last 6 years or so, and have to date accumulated a collection of >150 classical CDs. Artistic merit aside, I am picky about recorded quality; most of my listening is done through headphones (AKG k501), so poor sound quality in a CD is a big no-no for me.
I'll get sound quality out of the way first then - the SQ on this set varies from good to excellent. Sometimes the miking may come across as a little too warm (Rachmaninov) or a wee bit hollow sounding (Chopin), but there is nothing major to complain about here. There is a spot of easily noticed distortion in the first 10 seconds of the Emperor (more on that later).
I originally purchased this set for just one performance in particular - Clara Haskil's Chopin #2. This particular performance has been out of print for some time and was last available as part of an exorbitantly priced set (Clara Haskil: Legacy) that is now impossible to find.
In a nutshell, Haskil's performance alone is worth the full price of the entire set. The playing in the 2nd movement is absolutely magical - Haskil interprets Chopin with a delicacy and refinement that is difficult to put into words. Her playing brings to mind something my old piano teacher once told me - "Anyone can play Chopin, but few can play Chopin well". The way the solo melodic line is strung together at ~41 seconds into the 2nd movement will send shivers down your spine. Beauty too rich for use / for earth too dear, indeed.
But wait - there's more!
Imagine my surprise when another of the performances in this set turned out to be a 'sleeper hit': Brendel's Beethoven #5 ("Emperor"). I quickly grew to prefer Brendel's Emperor over my 'reference' recording - Pollini with Abbado (part of a very expensive DG 3CD set!). Brendel plays with more emotion and warmth - his Emperor comes off as truly majestic when compared to Abbado, who comes off as a little more magisterial and cold. There is a spot of piano clatter about 10 seconds into the first movement, but it is nothing major and certainly does not detract from the beautiful playing that follows.
Unfortunately Brendel's Elvira Madigan comes across as faaaaar tooooo slooooowwwww (for my taste). The playing is mannered, and there is none of the wiry elegance that should (in my opinion) characterise interpretations of music written during the Classical period. I much prefer my Pires with Abbado on DG for this concerto.
Janis's Rachmaninov #2 is worth a mention as well. Tape hiss on this recording is noticeable on headphones, but not overly prominent. There are few options for the Rach 2nd nowadays - Ashkenazy's warhorse is the usual (and nearly unanimous) recommendation.
Byron Janis was (in?)famous due to his being one of Vladimir Horowitz's two 'officially' recognised pupils, yet I find little Horowitz in this interpretation. There is none of the bravado and bold impulsiveness that characterised Horowitz's earlier work, no awkward mannerisms that characterised his middle work and none of the introspectiveness and coolness that characterised his late work.
What you will get instead is a well-measured and 'polite' Rach #2 with rather melancholy overtones, I find. Certainly a viable alternative to the Ashkenazy mentioned earlier, but a choice subject to personal taste. I prefer my own copy on Naxos by Jando.
I am not familiar with the Litolff and the Liszt, so I shall reserve comment on their respective readings. They are both well recorded though - warm and expansive."
In spite of...
Musicus | Oslo, Norway | 06/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The problem with a heterogeneous collection like this one is that you may like some of the concertos, but not all. I have never found any better recording of Chopin's 2nd concerto than the one with Haskil/Markevitch, so this alone is worth the price, hence my five stars - only for that one! Brendel on Mozart's 21st is also one of many nice accounts. The others are not good enough, if you ask me. Chopin's 2nd by Haskil/Markevitch carries the stars; it is pure magic!"