Kovacevich is the hero, but Argerich nearly steals the show
A. Braid | New York, NY | 03/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are arguably the four most important (or at least the most popular) piano concertos written after Beethoven's five momentous works in the genre. This 2 CD set contains definitive performances of all four. The Schumann and Grieg were praised in Gramophone magazine "Who would have thought the Grieg and Schumann piano concertos could come up as fresh as paint, as alive with both opulent and delicate emotional fervor as on the day they were written? Stephen Kovacevich's Philips recording, dating from 1970-1, has been tirelessly celebrated for its freshness and poetic vitality, and it remains a benchmark offering." And the BBC Symphony under the direction of Sir Colin Davis does a stunning job adding color behind the soloist and carrying the tutti parts. Of the several recordings of the Tchaikovsky that feature the stellar Martha Argerich (with Maestros Abbado, Dutoit, and Kord) this is the one to own, and almost worth the price of the whole set: a 1980 live recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at their home base in Munich. (In its original release it is paired with Argerich's Rachmaninoff Third). As frequently as the Tchaikovsky is played, Argerich points out new wonders through the thick chords and piano textures each time you listen. I promise you'll hear hidden lines and counter melodies you never heard before. Tchaikovsky asks the soloist to make a lot of noise in this piece, but Argerich treats the solo part with real finesse and shapes it nicely under her fingers. Wow!Brahms 2 is certainly the most musically difficult of any piano concerto ever written: its four movements clock in at about 50 minutes of Brahms' best music. Kovecevich is up to the task and this performance rivals those by Serkin, Fleisher, Richter, and Backhaus. There is not a phrase or note out of place; it is immensely satisfying. The Addinsell Warsaw concerto is a nice bonus to bring the total timing on this set over the two-and-a-half hour mark. Even if you already own one or two of the concertos on this set, you'll be rewarded by the fine interpretations here and the other new additions to your collection. Kovecevich is the real hero of this compilation, but Argerich nearly steals the show. It's too bad that most of Kovacevich's other Brahms recordings have been deleted, but look for more recordings of his such as the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas on EMI. For any classical music lover!"
A Great Buy!
A. Braid | 12/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A bargain price for 2 CDs and 150 minutes of excellent music! I bought these CDs looking for good recordings of the Schumann and Grieg piano concertos. Well, I was not disappointed. Kovacevich's playing is tremendous in both of these pieces, with fine support from Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. I would have been satisfied with just these two recordings for the price I paid, but three other excellent pieces were included as well. None of these recordings is as highly recommendable as the Schumann or the Grieg, but they are good recordings nonetheless. All these things considered, this set of CDs includes some of the best piano concertos along with some excellent performances, so don't pass it up. It's a must buy!"
E Boomer | Chicago, IL USA | 03/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This collection serves as a descent introduction to some great piano concertos, but the performances are not the best and the recording quality of most of them leaves much to be desired for me. I learned my lesson with regards to the 'best of' classical collections. Personally I'd rather have gotten great recordings of great performances of great classical pieces for a little more money."
Stellar playing in a generous coupling of famous pieces!
moviemusicbuff | Walnut, CA United States | 04/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2 CD set is a dream come true. Martha Argerich playing the Tchaikovsky concerto #1, Stephen Kovacevich playing the Grieg, Schumann, and Brahms Concertos, Misha Dichter playing the Addinsell. Argerich has a complete mastery of the Tchaikovsky concerto, having it recorded it 3 times (w/ Dutoit, Kondrashin, and Abbado); she is a virtuoso who plays with great passion and fire, which makes for such an exciting recording. This recording here is with Kondrashin. Stephen Kovacevich's performance of the Grieg / Schumann is one of the finest interpretations on CD (on par with Murray Perahia and Leif Ove Andsnes). Colin Davis complements Kovacevich well, having conducted the orchestra for Murray Perahia as well on these pieces. Misha Dichter does not disappoint with the Addinsell Concerto, and Kovacevich's performance of the Brahms is also great in musicianship, tempo, and tone. As another reviewer noted, the Brahms is one of the hardest pieces to play.
Years ago, I payed full price for Stephen Kovacevich's version of the Grieg / Schumann on a single disc. Just recently, I discovered this CD collection; for a few bucks more, you can have Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Addinsell as well! This is an outstanding bargain that you cannot pass up -- just for Argerich and Kovacevich. The sound quality is excellent!"