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Brahms piano concerto no 2

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Posted on April 29, 2012 at 13:38:48
Brian Cheney
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Further to the post below about the music of Brahms, I recently discovered a recording of the Bflat concerto most worthy of your attention.

My favorite recordings of this work had been Serkin/Szell (cerebral, logical, brilliantly played) and Richter/Leinsdorf (exciting, forceful, fast). Richter gets through the work (which can seem endless) in less time than just about anyone, and the orchestral work (CSO) is top notch.

Now I find another pianist displaying similar youthful forward thrust, power, and technique who adds rare intellect and visionary insight into the music. This is a man going all out for excitement and grandeur, phrasing boldly, using subtle rubato, taking risks. Tempi are the fastest I've heard, 15:53 (Richter/Leinsdorf 16:49)in the opening and at least a half minute faster than Richter in each of the remaining movements. There are truly heroic qualities here: momentum, staggering dynamics, glittering runs and trills, plus a lightness and sweep that makes this fiendishly difficult score sound easy. The pianist is even willing to harden his tone and pound away, nearly drowning out a (very good) orchestra in the big climaxes. By contrast, the solo plays numerous soft levels below piano with unbelievable delicacy snd variety of touch. After the first movement I found myself nearly out of breath just from listening.

So who is this fiery keyboard master? Pogo, Horowitz, Hoffman, some up and coming new babe musician?

I'd love to prolong the suspense, but our unlikely virtuoso is no stranger: it's Artur Schnabel, in a 1935 Boult/BBC performance available on several recent CD issues. I got mine coupled with the 1947 studio "Kinderszenen", done fabulously as you might expect. Sound is fine for its vintage.

Don't miss this.

 

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But Gilels and Reiner are 15:43 in the first movement [nt] ;-), posted on April 29, 2012 at 13:54:54
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RE: Brahms piano concerto no 2, posted on April 29, 2012 at 14:15:28
ahendler
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Brian,
Thanks for pointing out this performance
Here is a link to the first movement on you tube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho2nqhMYlEo

I am a great fan of the Richter performance. Having listened only to the first movement of the Schnabel performance it is very exciting but at times feels out of control. For me it feels over the top. Somewhat like todays artists who feel they must play as fast as possible to make an impression. There are also several major mistakes in the Schnabel which says to me he may have taken it to fast. It almost feels like something Horowitz would do.
Richter develops the overall structure of this piece unlike anyone else.
Don't get me wrong, I greatly admire Schnabel and will probably get this recording and listen to the whole piece
Again thank you for recommending this performance
Alan

 

RE: But Gilels and Reiner are 15:43 in the first movement [nt] ;-), posted on April 29, 2012 at 14:31:17
ahendler
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Buy the way, if you are interested in buying this it is on
Naxos-8110665 including Schumann: Kinderszenen
Available at Presto Classical for $10.25 including shipping
Alan

 

Thanks, Alan - I've just been listening to it on Spotify, posted on April 29, 2012 at 14:37:04
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BTW, my post was half in jest - I was just pulling Brian's chain. ;-)

Interestingly enough, Spotify gives the timing for the Schnabel/Boult first movement as 15:52, so Gilels and Reiner only beat them by nine seconds. ;-)

 

RE: Brahms piano concerto no 2, posted on April 29, 2012 at 15:41:18
Thornhill
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For the 2nd I prefer Fleisher's lighter but more precise touch to Serkin's intensity. But in the 1st I prefer Serkin.

Szell certainly had a keen understanding of these concertos -- brilliant recordings of the 1st with Serkin, Fleisher and Curzon, and 2nd with Felisher and Serkin.

 

Gilels/Jochum 18:21 in first movement!!, posted on April 29, 2012 at 15:52:12
Brian Cheney
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nt

 

True - he'd put on some girth by then [nt] ;-), posted on April 29, 2012 at 16:22:22
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RE: Brahms piano concerto no 2, posted on April 29, 2012 at 16:27:40
MichaelV8


 
Have you ever heard the Solomon Cutner Testament recording of this work? It is one of my desert island discs in that I cannot imagine a more satisfying interpretation, yes it is a vintage recording in somewhat dim sound.

Basically, it is one of the reasons I have not yet given up on Brahms, although I find frustration while cozying up to many of his compositions.

 

BTW, that's one of the reasons why record companies should. . . , posted on April 29, 2012 at 16:33:45
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. . . record musicians when they're young babes and hunks!

 

Gilels was 42 for Reiner, 55 for Jochum.... . . , posted on April 29, 2012 at 16:35:36
Brian Cheney
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nt

 

There's a threshold in there somewhere [nt] ;-), posted on April 29, 2012 at 16:38:58
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Why would you want to rush through it?, posted on April 29, 2012 at 19:32:49
jimbill
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I love the music.

I also love the Richter.

I'll listen to the Schnabel.

 

Slow performances of the Brahms Second Concerto sound. . . flabby, posted on April 29, 2012 at 23:36:11
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There's probably an exception or two (Moravec maybe - even then, I'm not so sure). However, despite my subject heading, I'm about to order a slow performance myself (at least from what I can tell from the samples) with Anna Malikova and the Duisburg Philharmonic and Jonathan Darlington on the Acousence label.



Ralf Koschnicke, the engineer and producer for this label, really seems to know what the heck he's doing - the recordings on this label are among the very best from an engineering point of view being released nowadays IMHO.

BTW, to get back to the Schnabel performance, I'm afraid I wasn't impressed. (Sorry, Brian.) Where we should have impetus, we have mere impatience (allied to various technical shortcomings and mishaps). I feel confident in saying that a performance like this would not get past the first round of a major piano competition these days. (Well, that's not actually true, because the concerto performances are usually in the final round! But the point is that Schnabel's technical difficulties are as much conceptual as physical, and his refusal to come to grips with the details of the writing (e.g., finishing the figures and phrases, articulating the grace notes rather than clumping them together, maintaining the pulse in a meaningful way, etc.) results in a performance that all too often sounds slap dash.

 

The Schnabel didn't work for me either., posted on April 30, 2012 at 09:15:49
jimbill
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And I'm not saying I prefer a slow rendition, I'm just saying that I like the music so much that I'd take a slow version if that was my only choice.

Brahms has taken a bit of bashing on this forum and I'm just stating I find much of his music exceptional.

 

Available from The Classical Shop as a lossless download..., posted on April 30, 2012 at 09:42:48
Russell
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for 5.75, or about $9.20. I think I'll try it. Thanks, Brian!

Russell

 

The teenage Schnabel heard Brahms play live..., posted on April 30, 2012 at 11:53:01
Brian Cheney


 
performing his own works. Although there were plenty of wrong notes, Schnabel reports Brahms "played in the grand manner" I doubt Brahms the pianist would get by the first round of today's competitions either.

I note with interest that an 18 year old Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli placed 7th in his first competition, the 1938 Ysaye. Winner was Gilels, then 21.

 

Two for further consideration, posted on April 30, 2012 at 12:17:31
Poles Apart


 
Adrian Aeschbacher, Furtwaengler, BPO (December 1943) This is wild, tempi all over the place at first, so much so you'd hardly guess it's Wilhelm -- but then it settles down, somewhat. The Andante is extraordinarily rapt. I was once asked by the dread Romy which performance I thought best; when I indicated this one, he heartily agreed. (Aeschbacher studied with Schnabel, by the way.) This was one of the very last concerts given at Philharmonic Hall, which we bombed to smithereens three weeks later.

Dubrovka Tomsic, Anton Nanut, Ljubljana SO. This Slovenian lady is no headliner, but whenever she comes to town I try to go. The recording features exquisite playing with long steady lines that defy the bars, but the often reliable Ljubljana forces this time mar the whole. Still worth a listen, and it's an el cheapo CD.

P.A.

The link below is for the Aeschbacher, but the copy I own is on TAHRA and this is not it.

 

Oh, and the timing on the First Movement?, posted on April 30, 2012 at 12:19:16
Poles Apart


 
14:24!

P.A.

 

Another modern day competition loser!, posted on April 30, 2012 at 12:23:34
Brian Cheney
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nt

 

RE: The teenage Schnabel heard Brahms play live..., posted on April 30, 2012 at 12:29:59
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Yes - good points. In Earl Wild's memoirs, he mentions that he worked with a professor who had heard Brahms play, and the verdict was that when Brahms played chamber music, not only did he play a lot of wrong notes, but he would often play so loudly that he drowned out the other instruments!

I can't resist pointing out that Michelangeli and Gilels had quite a bit more finish to their playing than Schnabel did, even though Gilels was a bit wild himself in his youthful playing.

 

I'm going to pull a Brian on this one: Aeschenbacher/Van Kempen - 16:42, posted on April 30, 2012 at 12:39:01
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Haven't been able to listen to it yet. I guess Aeschenbacher put on some more girth too! ;-)

 

ABM in his youth., posted on April 30, 2012 at 13:26:20
jimbill
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I wonder if he was as much a perfectionist at the age of 18 as he was in his later years.

 

RE: ABM in his youth., posted on April 30, 2012 at 14:05:56
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Can't say - the earliest ABM recordings I've heard are from 1948.

 

RE: Two for further consideration, posted on April 30, 2012 at 14:16:27
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I don't understand all this obeisance towards Romy. Isn't that guy out of his mind? What's his appeal?

 

RE: BTW, that's one of the reasons why record companies should. . . , posted on April 30, 2012 at 16:30:12
Old Listener
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> record musicians when they're young babes and hunks!

But not both!

Bill

my blog: http://carsmusicandnature.blogspot.com/

 

Serkin/Szell: 2005 remaster, posted on May 2, 2012 at 02:30:20
Bob Stern
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There's a hard-to-find 2005 CD remaster of the Serkin/Szell that sounds much better than previous incarnations:

http://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Piano-Concerto-Pieces-Op-119/dp/B0007N1A40

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=94847

 

Romy, posted on May 2, 2012 at 10:00:25
Poles Apart


 
Romy is a highly intelligent, musically literate person. Often we speak after a Boston Symphony broadcast and he has the right take on it... although we disagree sometimes too. He has supplied me with a small wealth of magnificent performances from obscure and/or overseas labels. And he, like myself, admires historic recordings. We get along fine because I don't take him seriously, personally.

Plus he has a STUPENDOUS audio system and a beautiful home for it.

P.A.

 

Interesting - Thanks!, posted on May 2, 2012 at 12:30:12
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It's hard to reconcile that with the posts I've seen from him on various forums, but I'm certainly willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

 

Who's "Romy" and why does he wield influence? {nt}, posted on May 2, 2012 at 14:58:55
Mike Porper
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m

 

This Is So Exciting, posted on May 2, 2012 at 15:38:04
Mike Porper
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So stimulating. God, I love music.

This thread is just packed with animated, informative discourse that just thrills to read. How wonderful it is to live in a time when such resources are available to us, and to share among such excellent persons. Thanks, guys.

 

RE: Brahms piano concerto no 2, posted on May 8, 2012 at 18:21:56
josh358
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If it's the equal of his Beethoven concerti, I can imagine . . . have to see if I can find it.

 

RE: Brahms piano concerto no 2, posted on May 8, 2012 at 18:31:22
josh358
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"The great andante pianist." His clunkers are legendary, though they say that his technique was flawless when he played at home -- it seems he suffered from performance anxiety. My late father heard him in concert, and gave a vivid account of his fussiness on stage.

I'm listening to the Brahms now, and have the same impression you do -- that it's out of control at times.

 

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