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In Reply to: RE: I can't get enough of Beethoven Piano Concerto no. 4 posted by Jay Buridan on July 06, 2017 at 07:18:46
I started out with the Gilels/Ludwig recording, which many consider superior to the Gilels/Szell, in the sense that the Gilels/Ludwig performance was not dominated by the conductor, and the soloist was far more free to express his own ideas rather than always having to fit in with a conductor's inflexible idea of the music, which at times seemed to clip the soloist's wings. ("He's really not a very nice man, is he?", Gilels is reported to have said about Szell to one of the Cleveland Orchestra members during the sessions.)
OTOH, nice or not, one of my other favorite recordings of the Fourth Concerto is the Fleisher/Szell, originally on Epic. But perhaps my favorite of all (especially for sheer drama) is the Moravec/Turnovsky, despite SQ which doesn't seem as natural as the other two recordings I mentioned. I also have Moravec's re-make of the work with Belohlavek, which, although better recorded, has seemed not as dramatic as his earlier recording, but I haven't steeped myself in this later performance as much either - it's still impressive in a more restrained way. In both of his recordings, Moravec uses Beethoven's alternate cadenza in the first movement. (Come to think of it, maybe Gilels does too - I don't have that recording on hand to check right now.)
A dark horse for me is the Bachauer/Dorati/LSO recording on Mercury. I think if you listen to this performance, you'll be struck (as I was) by the extraordinary evenness of Bachauer's playing. Sure, almost everyone who plays this concerto has sufficient technique to do it justice, but the notes in Bachauer's passage work seem like the proverbial evenly-matched pearls! Because Mercury's typically close-up microphoning is more likely to expose any imperfections in the line, Bachauer's mastery of this aspect of playing seems all the more extraordinary.
And although, in any given work, I usually prefer other pianists to Cliburn, he certainly did have his moments. And in the case of the Fourth Concerto, I really do like the Cliburn/Reiner performance - not least for its very natural recording quality, but also for its paradoxical combination of freshness and almost visionary calm. This was apparently the very last recording that Reiner made in Chicago, and he is reported to have been in pretty bad health at the time. Nevertheless, the orchestra sounds alert (although not on edge - which could happen with Reiner!).
So many more, of course!
However, I was raised on this one. Perhaps one of the first handful of LPs I bought when I started collecting back in 1956.
And, although I haven't heard that particular recording, Novaes could certainly be wonderful! (I have really fond memories of her Chopin Etudes, although it's been ages since I heard those performances.)
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