Brendel's live Schumann PC & Brahms Handel Variations

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Lance
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Brendel's live Schumann PC & Brahms Handel Variations

Post by Lance » Wed May 16, 2018 5:19 pm

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Decca 483 3288

If you have the wonderful Brendel mega-box, you have a treasure. However, Decca (formerly Philips) or ORF has been digging into the vaults to find a couple of things that did NOT appear in the mega-box. One is the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 with the Vienna Philharmonic, Simon Rattle conducting (live, Vienna 2001); the other — and the real reason I wanted this CD was because of his live 1979 performance of Brahms' Handel Variations, also recorded in Vienna.

Given Brendel's reputation for wanting perfect pianos (and I can't blame him, they aren't found all that frequently), I was disappointed not in his performance but the piano used in the Handel Variations. It was out of voice, uneven, and in places I note out-of-tune notes on occasion, the whole instrument sounding raucous at times. What makes this recording special is that Brendel never commercially recorded the Brahms piece before. This is his only "record" of it. Frankly, I'm surprised he would sanction the release of the Brahms. The piece itself puts the piano through its paces, so it is not surprising to find an occasional note gone sour. But the general voicing with some notes totally out of character, I was just surprised. His playing is right on as you would expect from Brendel, very clean passage work, clear and concise and beautifully interpreted. He offers an explanation about the release of this disc (he is obviously pleased by what he writes thanking Decca), and talks about the Brahms piece particularly.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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John F
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Re: Brendel's live Schumann PC & Brahms Handel Variations

Post by John F » Thu May 17, 2018 9:12 am

Haven't heard these, but I would expect Brendel to shine in the Brahms/Handel, as he did in his later performances of the Diabelli Variations, characterizing each variation sharply and distinctively. Too bad about the piano, but if this is the only surviving recording by him of this piece, it's surely much better than nothing. Less so in the Schumann concerto, even with a more Romantically-inclined conductor than Rattle; Romantic fantasy isn't what Brendel was best at, though I heard a lovely "Kinderscenen" from him in a late recital.
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Re: Brendel's live Schumann PC & Brahms Handel Variations

Post by maestrob » Thu May 17, 2018 10:28 am

Agree.

Rattle is the last conductor I would expect to turn in a Romantic piece like the Schumann: I wonder how he does in it? Perhaps Brendel simply played and Rattle followed him? What do you think of the performance Lance?

And yes, I do have the Brendel Box, but haven't yet opened it. Can't wait to begin that journey!

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