Brahms' piano concerto recommendations

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Mahler
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Brahms' piano concerto recommendations

Post by Mahler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:03 am

I was wondering if anyone could recommend another interpretation of Brahms' 2nd piano concerto. I have a Pollini recording in my possession (Abbado, Wiener Philharmoniker from 1977) which is impressive, but I would like to be able to compare it to a different version. Any ideas?

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Post by Holden Fourth » Sat Sep 29, 2007 3:00 am

Richter

As well as the Brahms you get one of the greatest Appassionatas ever played

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Post by Sapphire » Sat Sep 29, 2007 3:25 am

I have Richter too.

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Post by Bösendorfer » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:28 am

This I think is the same Richter recording of Brahms pc #2, but in a different coupling (not as interesting, unless like me you have the Richter Appassionata already). It's been on my to-get-list for a while...

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Post by jserraglio » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:35 am

Gilels with Reiner and the CSO from the late 50's suits me just fine.

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Post by Yi-Peng » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:41 am

Have you tried the DG recording with Gilels and Jochum? It should demonstrate Gilels' maturity in his rendition of the piece. Perhaps you could also consider the DVD of Zimerman/Bernstein, which also contains a superb Brahms 1, where the introspection of the work is just as valid as the traditional approach.

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Post by val » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:41 am

I love Richter and Leinsdorf, but my favorite version of the 2nd Concerto is Gilels with Jochum and the BPO.

The very simple, natural, and touching version of Richter-Haaser and Karajan is also among my preferred.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 5:07 am

Holden Fourth wrote:Richter

As well as the Brahms you get one of the greatest Appassionatas ever played
I don't usually post on recording threads, but that would be my choice as well. However, there are many great recordings of both works and I would not be fetishistic about it.

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Mahler
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Post by Mahler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 5:35 am

Thanks for all your contributions and suggestions. I have already checked out samples of some of them, and the differences to the Pollini recording I own are amazing. The Richter recording sounds so much more laboured, almost stakkato in comparison to the version I am used to (which, by the way, might be typical of Pollini, as this sample [source] implies, and the '77 recording is even more legato). This is, however, just a first impression and should by no means be mistaken for a final judgement. At any rate, I am really looking forward to exploring several of those recordings you have kindly recommended to me.
"Auch das Schöne muss sterben."

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Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 8:15 am

If I had a favourite piece in the repertoire this would be it. It's like hot chocolate and marshmallows to me. My love of the piece began with hearing Marc-Andre Hamelin play it live with the KWS many years ago. I've noticed since, that Hamelin often plays this work live; as you may know, he doesn't do all that much within the standard repertoire. Hamelin has recently become available on CD, but I do not yet have it.

I agree with John's sentiment that almost all recorded versions are very good. It's also important to have a top notch cellist for the opening of the 3rd movement. My favourite version is Ax/ Haitink/ Boston, which is probably outside of any consensus on the subject. I simply state it, but you can probably ignore it, as I know no-one here will agree. My second choice would be Rubinstein/ Ormandy, a choice probably more favoured by the cognoscenti. I don't have Richter's version but I soon will. (The excuse is that I'm so puzzled by the Richter discography that I'm a deer in the headlights when it comes to buying any of his work. No I will not spend $600 for Richter in Prague.) Two nights ago I listened very carefully to the Anda/ Fricsay/ Berlin Radio version. Anda's playing is not as good on this as Rubinstein. (Not as expressive, let's say). But the overall experience is superb, esp because of the orchestra-pianist timing and balance. The rendition is highly polished and practiced.
Other versions are Kuerti/ Rescigno/ Metropolitan and Brendel/ Abbado/ BPO. The Brendel is the first version I had and the only version for many years. It was quite satisfying. The Kuerti is also very fine. Really you can't go wrong with any 'serious' recording of this work, and since I go back to this work fairly often, it's nice to have a choice.

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Post by Heck148 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:14 am

jserraglio wrote:Gilels with Reiner and the CSO from the late 50's suits me just fine.
yup, that's my favorite as well.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:31 am

Edwin Fischer.

Maybe Joe Patrych has some ideas as he has, literally, dozens and dozens of versions of this work.

Probably Lance does, too.
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Post by moldyoldie » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:01 am

Favorites for No. 1:
Curzon/Szell/Cleveland O/Decca (lighter and more nimble)
Schiff/Solti/Vienna PO/London (more powerful)
Barenboim/Barbirolli/New Philharmonia/EMI (most bombastic)

Favorites for No. 2:
Gilels/Jochum/Berlin PO/DG (nearly brought tears to my eyes)
Cliburn/Reiner/Chicago SO/RCA (ditto)
Richter/Leinsdorf/Chicago SO/RCA (fleetness, power, and dry-eyed poeticism)

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So Donald has outed me....

Post by Jppiano » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:25 am

As a crazy Brahms 2nd collector, that is....

Well, yes, I have about 125 commerical and over 100 live performances of the piece (I know; insane...). My favorite commercial recordings:

Fischer/Furtwangler (masterful musicianship, a bit sloppy)
Richter/Maazel (yes, I like it better than Leinsdorf)
Fleisher/Szell (a reference standard, muscular and powerful)
Ashkenazy/Metha (very impressive playing)
Gilels/Jochum (beautiful both pianistically and orchestrally)

For live, the best I have ever heard was Zimerman with the NY Phil in 1987 (the exact date escapes me at the moment, but it was towering)

Some that I dislike:

Horowitz/Toscanini (dont know what it is, but it sure aint Brahms)
Kentner/Boult (laughingly inept)
Cliburn/Reiner (dull as watching paint peeling)

Your mileage may vary....

Joe P.

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Re: So Donald has outed me....

Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 12:24 pm

Jppiano wrote:As a crazy Brahms 2nd collector, that is....

Well, yes, I have about 125 commerical and over 100 live performances of the piece (I know; insane...). My favorite commercial recordings:

Fischer/Furtwangler (masterful musicianship, a bit sloppy)
Richter/Maazel (yes, I like it better than Leinsdorf)
Fleisher/Szell (a reference standard, muscular and powerful)
Ashkenazy/Metha (very impressive playing)
Gilels/Jochum (beautiful both pianistically and orchestrally)

For live, the best I have ever heard was Zimerman with the NY Phil in 1987 (the exact date escapes me at the moment, but it was towering)

Some that I dislike:

Horowitz/Toscanini (dont know what it is, but it sure aint Brahms)
Kentner/Boult (laughingly inept)
Cliburn/Reiner (dull as watching paint peeling)

Your mileage may vary....

Joe P.
Joe,
I've never heard the Horowitz but just imagine that his pianism in general is the antithesis of the Brahmsian aesthetic. Cliburn, possibly, the other end of the spectrum, too restrained. Having never heard either one, how close is that analysis?

Again, I've never heard the Richter; I'm confident that it'll be good based on those recommendations, but have my doubts as to whether it can be the best. I'll know when I hear it; but it's more than just the piano that matters. Which is stating the obvious I suppose, but when some say, for example, that a certain Argerich rendition is the best Rach 3rd concerto, I wonder whether they consider the orchestra aspect very much at all; that rendition sounds a little too sloppy for me, although it is exciting.

Joe, are there any hidden gems in those 225 renditions? Maybe not best in class, but surprisingly good or unique in approach.

Can anyone recommend a source for a score? I'd like to obtain one to follow along. (I have a few scores, but don't know much about how to get them).

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Post by Mahler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 12:31 pm

slofstra wrote:Can anyone recommend a source for a score?
This might be what you are looking for.
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Post by pizza » Sat Sep 29, 2007 12:57 pm

val wrote:The very simple, natural, and touching version of Richter-Haaser and Karajan is also among my preferred.
My sentiments exactly. Hans Richter-Haaser is an old-school pianist who plays with relaxed elegance while HvK and the Berlin PO are fine accompanists.

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Post by Chalkperson » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:05 pm

pizza wrote:
val wrote:The very simple, natural, and touching version of Richter-Haaser and Karajan is also among my preferred.
My sentiments exactly. Hans Richter-Haaser is an old-school pianist who plays with relaxed elegance while HvK and the Berlin PO are fine accompanists.
I don't have his Brahms but I love his Beethoven...

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Post by Chalkperson » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:12 pm

Gilels - Jochum
Gilels - Reiner
Hamelin - Litton
Francois Frederic Guy - Berglund
Friere - Chailly
Richter - Leinsdorf

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Post by DavidRoss » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:45 pm

Fleisher/Szell has long been good enough for me, but looking for another performance in first-rate sound led me to Freire/Chailly, coupled with the d minor, and both are splendid!
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Post by Holden Fourth » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:34 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
pizza wrote:
val wrote:The very simple, natural, and touching version of Richter-Haaser and Karajan is also among my preferred.
My sentiments exactly. Hans Richter-Haaser is an old-school pianist who plays with relaxed elegance while HvK and the Berlin PO are fine accompanists.
I don't have his Brahms but I love his Beethoven...
So do I! I used to have Op 2 nos 1 & 2 plus the G minor Fantasie on LP but sadly it was never transferred to CD. Maybe Testament will eventually release it?

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Post by Brahms » Sat Sep 29, 2007 6:19 pm

Gilels (Reiner) (Jochum)
Richter
Serkin (Szell)
Fleisher (Szell)
Zimerman (Bernstein)
Rubinstein (Krips)
Cliburn (Reiner)
Solomon (Dobrowen)
Katchen (Ferencsik)

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Re: So Donald has outed me....

Post by Yi-Peng » Sat Sep 29, 2007 8:58 pm

slofstra wrote:Are there any hidden gems in those 225 renditions? Maybe not best in class, but surprisingly good or unique in approach.
Yes, but I fear I may not be qualified to talk about No. 2 as I would No. 1. I think that the Zimerman-Bernstein version of No. 1 is like a hidden gem in itself, and I wish it were in the catalogue. I know it isn't going to win points for flashy fireworks, but it adopts a rather introspective approach that befits the soul-searching character of the work.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:42 pm

In 1972 I heard Rubinstein, who was no slouch at this work, play it at the NY Philharmonic Pension Fund concert. (I think Karel Ancerl was the conductor.) For an encore, after the intermission, he played the Rachmaninoff 2nd Concerto. He was 85 at the time.
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Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:23 pm

Donald Isler wrote:In 1972 I heard Rubinstein, who was no slouch at this work, play it at the NY Philharmonic Pension Fund concert. (I think Karel Ancerl was the conductor.) For an encore, after the intermission, he played the Rachmaninoff 2nd Concerto. He was 85 at the time.
Practice a piece for 75 years and there's no telling what you can do. (I have a DVD of him playing at 88, I believe). A great memory to have ...

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Post by Wallingford » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:46 pm

Manomanalive.

No one's mentioned Serkin/Ormandy???

That's the one that, IMHO, is done to perfection. Incredibly, it was the third traversal for both men. Ormandy makes the orchestral accompaniment as (predictably) colorful as can be & as little oppressive as possible....and the astounding give-and-take between Serkin & him! One of the only performances to make the scherzo sound truly impulsive (& at the right speed, too). They also give a nice spotlight to cellist Lorne Monroe (?) in the third movement.
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Post by Barry » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:49 pm

I agree with the recommendations for Richter on RCA as a top pic.

Gilels/Jochum are my favorite for the first concerto, but I don't like them quite as much in the second.

Fischer/Furtwangler is also very interesting if you like Furtwangler's super romantic approach to music-making.

I'm looking forward to seeing Leif Ove Andsnes perform it next month with Vanska and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
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Post by Chalkperson » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:55 pm

Barry Z wrote:I'm looking forward to seeing Leif Ove Andsnes perform it next month with Vanska and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
That's an interesting combination...

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Post by Barry » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:57 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Barry Z wrote:I'm looking forward to seeing Leif Ove Andsnes perform it next month with Vanska and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
That's an interesting combination...
I agree. I don't go to see this piece performed every time it's available here, because it's played by the Philadelphia Orchestra so often and the soloist and/or conductor doesn't always interest me. But I'm very intrigued by this combination. I have no idea what to expect. I've attended Vanska's two previous programs here and while I wouldn't say I disliked him, I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be. But this orchestra is often tough on new conductors; kind of like the New York Philharmonic of old.
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Post by Brahms » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:27 pm

Has anyone heard Kondrashin conducting Brahms 2d PC? There are two of interest:

Richter/Kondrashin/Czech Phil (1950 mono)

(w/Saint-Sains Egyptian)

Image

Cliburn/Kondrashin/Moscow Phil (1972)

(w/Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rach)

Image


I seem to remember that one of these was a disaster, but I could be thinking of Kondrashin conducting Rachmaninov 2/3.......

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Post by Brahms » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:36 pm

Yi-Peng wrote: DVD of Zimerman/Bernstein
My favorite DVD of anything ........

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Post by Mahler » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:38 pm

I find it quite interesting to be the only one to have even mentioned Maurizio Pollini up to this point. Not that there is something necessarily wrong with that; I just assumed a renowned virtuoso (renowned for his Brahms interpretations, at that) would be more appreciated, especially in combination with a conductor (Claudio Abbado) and orchestras (Wiener/Berliner Philharmoniker) often considered world-class in their own right. Somehow, their lack of representation in this discussion makes me wonder about the quality of Pollini's interpretation of the composition in question, although personally, I find it most convincing.
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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:32 am

Mahler wrote:their lack of representation in this discussion makes me wonder about the quality of Pollini's interpretation of the composition in question, although personally, I find it most convincing.
Pollini and Michaelangeli were both Perfectionists, just like Carlos Kleiber, it takes a lot to 'warm' to Pollini, he's made a couple of good records recently, a fine Mozart Concerto's disc but otherwise you have to go back to his beginnings like the Chopin Concertos on EMI and his Late Schubert Sonatas on DG...he recorded the Beethoven and the Brahms Concertos with Abbado, they are both good but there is so much competition in these works, he just doesn't rise to the top...

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Post by Brahms » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:48 am

Chalkperson wrote: [Pollini] recorded the Beethoven and the Brahms Concertos with Abbado, they are both good but there is so much competition in these works, he just doesn't rise to the top...
Correct. This is a hyper-competitive arena. The greatest pianist can be brought down by a simply not having the right "magic" with the conductor .........

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Post by Ken » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:15 am

I agree with moldyoldie's pick of Barenboim/Barbiolli -- a very colourful performance in both concerti. However, it seems like most people are giving the nod to Richter, and I can rarely argue with that. :)
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Post by Joe Barron » Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:22 am

Fleisher and Szell have already been mentioned a couple times, but I'd like to drive home the recommendation. Theirs is the only version I have, and as much as I love Brahms's concertos, I don't feel the need to go looking for more. The recording of the First is one of my favorite rcordings of any piece from any era. The playing is laser-like, and the orchestral sound is thrilling.

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Post by slofstra » Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:40 am

Mahler wrote:I find it quite interesting to be the only one to have even mentioned Maurizio Pollini up to this point. Not that there is something necessarily wrong with that; I just assumed a renowned virtuoso (renowned for his Brahms interpretations, at that) would be more appreciated, especially in combination with a conductor (Claudio Abbado) and orchestras (Wiener/Berliner Philharmoniker) often considered world-class in their own right. Somehow, their lack of representation in this discussion makes me wonder about the quality of Pollini's interpretation of the composition in question, although personally, I find it most convincing.
It would be a big mistake to make that assumption. I often ask specific questions of this nature, and sometimes (not always) met with silence. With 225 renditions out there, no-one has surveyed them all. Another way to look at it - once you develop some personal favourites of a piece, you're loathe to re-evaluate every new rendition that comes along. In fact, the 'Ax' version which I like, I acquired only because the record club I was in at the time offered it at a deep discount. So I've grown to like it through accident. Come to think of it, I have never played it on my good stereo, so it's possible it could move up or down a notch.

A more tenable explanation would be that the Pollini is very, very good but has been overlooked. Two significant components of these 'favourites' selections are a) received wisdom, and b) personal taste. To a point, the actual quality of the playing is often a lesser factor. Especially, when, as we know, there are at least 225 recordings of the piece.

Because this is one of my favourite pieces I plan to acquire 3 addl versions based on what I read here. The Richter is de rigeur (also cheap right now). Then the Gilels/ Jochum and the Friere/Chailly look the most promising to me.

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Post by Mahler » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:58 pm

slofstra wrote:A more tenable explanation would be that the Pollini is very, very good but has been overlooked. Two significant components of these 'favourites' selections are a) received wisdom, and b) personal taste. To a point, the actual quality of the playing is often a lesser factor.
You are probably right, although I think we can rule out a lack of attention as a factor when it comes to Pollini/Abbado teamwork. I hope I will be able to render a more qualified judgement as soon as I have explored some of the aforementioned recordings.
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Post by Sapphire » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:16 pm

If I wanted another version of Brahms PC 2, in adition to my Richter/Leinsdorf/CSO, I would go to Arkiv Music/Brahms/Piano Con 2/"recommendations". Using this list, I'd then hop over to Amazon and check out any reviews and listen to samples.

Based purely on the Arkiv Music recomended list, I'd probably focus on the Ax/Haitinck/Levine/Boston and CSO for $12.99, which combines P Cons 1 & 2. Next to that, the Hamelin/Litton/Dallas version looks interesting at $18.99. Both are recent issues and good value.

As Henry points out, one has to be careful about taking recommendations from people who may only have one or two recordings, to which they grown accustomed and attached, and which may well have been largely random selections in the first place. I seldom take any notice of such recommendations.

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Post by pizza » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:40 pm

I just listened to the recording by Richter-Haaser/HvK/BPO out of curiosity to see if it is still as good as I had remembered it. It is still very eloquent, and I'm amazed at how good HvK could make the Berlin PO sound in the days when he worked for Walter Legge at EMI. This is a 1958 recording and the remastered sound is simply wonderful. All in all, a gorgeous performance and just as impressive as when I first heard it back then.

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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:06 pm

slofstra wrote:Because this is one of my favourite pieces I plan to acquire 3 addl versions based on what I read here. The Richter is de rigeur (also cheap right now). Then the Gilels/ Jochum and the Friere/Chailly look the most promising to me.
Good choices Henry...

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Post by slofstra » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:40 pm

Sapphire wrote:As Henry points out, one has to be careful about taking recommendations from people who may only have one or two recordings, to which they grown accustomed and attached, and which may well have been largely random selections in the first place. I seldom take any notice of such recommendations.
Ah, actually, that sounds like most of my recommendations. :wink: But I do believe the 'reviewer' in a forum should try to establish their context, since most of us are not professional reviewers. But that doesn't mean, don't contribute.
It could very well be the ONLY rendition someone has, but if in the total context of their entire collection it's a favourite recording, that still means something.
And just because someone with 200 renditions says X is the best, well, your or my taste may still be different.

I have no musical training, nor am I as well travelled in the subject as some members of this forum. I'm sure that there are lots of classical music fans who share this position, probably some lurk on the forum and are even afraid to contribute. Their opinions may not be as credible as a 'lance' or 'reblem', but that doesn't mean they're not also interesting. In some ways, I'd rather hear about someone's experience with the Pollini rendition than see 10 people nod their heads knowingly about the Richter.
Basically, it's a personal journey - it's good to hear from anyone that likes the music - especially, when we don't bump into classical music buffs on every street corner. I wasn't trying to deprecate anyone's choices, rather I was trying to elevate the importance of the opinion that is off the straight and narrow, be it Ax or Pollini.
Interesting that 'arkivmusic' also likes the Ax. So either it is as good as I think, or they have overstock. :)
Two things I would add: a) always trust your own ears, and b) be ready to revise your opinion at any time.

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Post by Sapphire » Sun Sep 30, 2007 4:12 pm

slofstra wrote:
I have no musical training, nor am I as well travelled in the subject as some members of this forum. I'm sure that there are lots of classical music fans who share this position, probably some lurk on the forum and are even afraid to contribute.
On the subject of lurkers, the software used on this Board (phpBB) doesn't identify how many there are. But with the other main brand, vBulletin, it shows "members" and "guests" (the latter presumably being the lurkers). Another trick with vBulletin is that by clicking on a member's name on the home page it shows you what their last activity was, or currently still is. When I was previously more active on another Board, which used vBulletin, I used to watch with interest the activities of certain individuals, and could usually anticipate the timing of their next post and on which topic, or whether they were likely to be conversing with that Board's very dopey Mod.

Sapphire

Brahms
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Re: So Donald has outed me....

Post by Brahms » Sun Sep 30, 2007 5:17 pm

Also good:

Backhaus / Bohm
Arrau / Haitink
Ashkenazy / Haitink

No slouches:

Brendel / Abbado
Weissenberg / Maag
Peter Serkin / Shaw

lmpower
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Post by lmpower » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:09 pm

Fleisher/Szell is the only CD I own of Brahms second. I also have an LP of Rubinstein/Krips. I have been very happy with both these performances.

Wallingford
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Location: Brush, Colorado

Post by Wallingford » Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:56 pm

For an UNCONVENTIONAL choice:

Go to classicalconducting.com for a real GALLIC performance of the Brahms #2--by ROBERT CASADESUS and PAUL PARAY (w/Detroit Symphony).

It's only mono (1960, Ford Auditorium), but as a musical experience, it's a helluva lot better than you'd expect these guys would do it. (Think back to Paray's Schumann Symphonies or Beethoven Seventh or Brahms Fourth.....or Casadesus' Beethoven Sonatas & Concertos or Schumann Papillons or Carnaval or Etudes Symphoniques. MUCH better than expected. :D )

The ovation they get at the end of the Brahms Second is much warranted.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Mahler
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Post by Mahler » Mon Oct 01, 2007 5:19 am

slofstra wrote:Basically, it's a personal journey - it's good to hear from anyone that likes the music - especially, when we don't bump into classical music buffs on every street corner. I wasn't trying to deprecate anyone's choices, rather I was trying to elevate the importance of the opinion that is off the straight and narrow, be it Ax or Pollini.
And as far as I am concerned, you have succeeded with you wonderful comment on this topic.

Something else you said made me think: Be ready to change your opinion. I often wonder about the importance of the first recording we encounter. It seems to me that no matter how many follow, the first one will always remain special, and every new one is inevitably measured against it (at least in my case). I would go so far as to claim that the version of a composition does not exist. That is why, as you pointed out, it comes down to your own preferences, your idea of what the interpretation should sound like.
"Auch das Schöne muss sterben."

slofstra
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Post by slofstra » Mon Oct 01, 2007 9:09 pm

Mahler wrote:
slofstra wrote:Basically, it's a personal journey - it's good to hear from anyone that likes the music - especially, when we don't bump into classical music buffs on every street corner. I wasn't trying to deprecate anyone's choices, rather I was trying to elevate the importance of the opinion that is off the straight and narrow, be it Ax or Pollini.
And as far as I am concerned, you have succeeded with you wonderful comment on this topic.

Something else you said made me think: Be ready to change your opinion. I often wonder about the importance of the first recording we encounter. It seems to me that no matter how many follow, the first one will always remain special, and every new one is inevitably measured against it (at least in my case). I would go so far as to claim that the version of a composition does not exist. That is why, as you pointed out, it comes down to your own preferences, your idea of what the interpretation should sound like.
I think what you say about the first rendition is very true. I was very stuck on Ashkenazy's Rachmaninov for a long time. When I read reviews criticizing it, I was disappointed. Of course, much later I realized how worthless reviews can be. (Actually, highly positive reviews can be good for pointing out great recordings. Negative reviews are often off base.) I began Mozart concertos with Uchida, Beethoven symphonies with Karajan, the sonatas with Kuerti, and so on and so forth. So the approaches of these artists form a reference point, as you indicate. It can take some work to unseat the reference point, and it may also require a radically different approach to make one listen. I had this experience with the Volodos Rachmaninoff 3 which had a listen or two and went on the shelf for many months. Then one night something seemed to click with this performance; I was listening properly and I had a new favourite, or another one, anyway as I still enjoy the Ashkenazy.

As far as the Ax/ Haitink Brahms, I played it again tonight and it's not the most expressive rendition. In fact, the playing is subdued, but - in the 4th movement, especially - the piano has that 'lighter than air' quality, and some of the individual high notes in each phrase 'plink' so sweetly. I would say it's the restraint that makes this recording. That same restraint comes through in the cello solo in the 3rd mvt, which could be laid on thickly. It's a contradiction that this approach works so well with the ultimate Romantic composer.

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Tue Oct 02, 2007 12:32 am

I've one more point to make on Casadesus/Paray: it's the ONLY surviving teamwork of the two Frenchmen.

(Paray DID record a few Mozart concertos with Robert's wife Gaby, when both were signed to Vox in the late 40s.)
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Mahler
Posts: 61
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:50 pm

Post by Mahler » Wed Oct 03, 2007 2:53 am

slofstra wrote:It can take some work to unseat the reference point, and it may also require a radically different approach to make one listen.
I guess it depends on what the reference point is. For example, I first heard Brahms' violin concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I was so overwhelmed - and have remained so to this day - that I never really felt the need to get another interpretation of that composition (I normally purchase several CDs of my favourite pieces). One day I stumbled over a Szeryng version (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Haitink), and it was a huge drop-off. I do not usually hand out harsh criticism, but that version was infinitely worse (not different, just worse) than Mutter's who will be tough to unseat as a reference point.

Then again, some others have been unseated. I first encountered Brahms' symphonies with Sawallisch and the London Philharmonic, and while those are solid renditions, I have since found several who are vastly superior (Kleiber's 4th, for one). The same is true oft what David Zinman and Sir Neville Marriner who introduced me to Beethoven's and Tchaikovsky's symphonies, respectively, and have since been dwarved by other conductors and their renditions.

I assume the first version of a composition can coincidentally be the best (for your own taste) you will ever hear, and if it is not, it will probably be replaced in time.
"Auch das Schöne muss sterben."

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