The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

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arepo
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The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by arepo » Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:49 am

One of my very favorite works in all the repertoire.

Check out YouTube and listen to Denis Matsuev give as great a performance of this masterpiece as I ever heard and there's very few I'm unfamiliar with.

This is a brilliant artist, indeed. Also, his Schumann Symphonic Etudes are equally sensational.

What a talent this young man is.


cliftwood

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:17 pm

There is a live video of Matsuev playing Schumann and Rachmaninov that you can watch for free if you have Amazon Prime at this address:

https://www.amazon.com/Denis-Matsuev-Sc ... is+matsuev

Simply astounding playing: He's got 10 pages of recordings available on amazon, including an excellent CD of Tchaikovsky I & II below.

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Allen
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Allen » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:32 pm

arepo wrote:One of my very favorite works in all the repertoire.

Check out YouTube and listen to Denis Matsuev give as great a performance of this masterpiece as I ever heard and there's very few I'm unfamiliar with.

cliftwood
Youtube:



John F
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sat Aug 27, 2016 4:01 am

Sorry, not for me. The performance is handicapped from the start by a soggy, poorly played orchestral introduction; I don't know why, Temirkanov is not a bad Brahms conductor, I heard a fine 4th symphony from him in Baltimore and New York. Then Matsuev begins to play in what for me is an annoyingly fussy way, pointlessly teasing the line as even Horowitz never did in this music. Maybe the performance recovers after the point at which I stopped listening, but I'd had enough.

For a great recorded performance I always come back to Leon Fleisher with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Szell gets the concerto off to a thrilling start - those horns and the crescendo toward the end of the 1st movement ritornello! - and Fleisher's impetuous playing, thrilling in its own right, is finely judged. It's much like that of his teacher, Artur Schnabel, in a 1938 recording also conducted by Szell, but at a slightly faster tempo and of course with far greater technical command of Brahms's sometimes awkward piano writing.



A young man's performance of a young composer's concerto, and Szell is with him all the way.
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Allen
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Allen » Sat Aug 27, 2016 7:00 am

John F

Thanks for the recording. I'll listen to it in a moment.

Have you read Leon Fleisher's autobiography?

https://www.amazon.com/My-Nine-Lives-Mu ... ives++Leon

I have, and found it immensely interesting.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sat Aug 27, 2016 8:41 am

No I haven't, I didn't even know about it, but now I will. Thanks for mentioning it!
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Sat Aug 27, 2016 11:54 am

The Fleisher recording is also one of my favorites, the other being Van Cliburn with Leinsdorf, which is quite similar in tempo and execution.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Ted Quanrud » Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:37 pm

George Szell seemed to own the Brahms 1st Concerto, recording it with Schnabel, Curzon, Fleisher and Rudolf Serkin. I have all four, and am pleased with all, except the Schnabel, whose technique is just not up to the demands of this work. The Curzon has long been regarded as a classic, and from the opening bars it is easy to hear why. The nobility and naturalness of the great English pianist's conception and execution off the work are nonpareil. The problem is the sound; it was not one of Decca's finer moments.

I am also fond of the Richter/Leinsdorf on RCA (yes, I know Richter didn't care for it) and the Solomon/Dobrowen. Among the newer recordings, the Freire/Chailly gets a thumbs-up.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:30 pm

Richter recorded the second concerto, not the first. As far as I know, he never played it, though he would never explain such choices, or would give a non-explanation such as that other pianists played it very well. (He didn't play Beethoven's 4th and 5th concertos or Rachmaninoff 3.)
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Ted Quanrud » Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:19 am

John F wrote:Richter recorded the second concerto, not the first. As far as I know, he never played it, though he would never explain such choices, or would give a non-explanation such as that other pianists played it very well. (He didn't play Beethoven's 4th and 5th concertos or Rachmaninoff 3.)
Thanks, John, for catching that. I meant Rubinstein/Reiner, and how I came up with Richter/Leinsdorf is beyond me other than to blame increasing dotage. :roll:

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Heck148 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 8:47 am

Ted Quanrud wrote: I meant Rubinstein/Reiner,
Rubinstein/Reiner is my favorite of this work...

maestrob
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:31 pm

I, too, could not get beyond the first 10 minutes or so of Matsuev's youtube offering. The conducting is quite awful: Temirkanov simply cannot give a steady beat to the orchestra, lunges at certain passages, and makes the whole musical experiece drag. The first movement of the concerto is in a slow 2, and should be consistently led as such.

Sorry, cliftwood: I don't blame Matsuev at all: he just fell into the hands of an incompetent conductor.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:46 pm

I hadn't heard the Rubinstein recording, so I listened to as much of it as I can find on YouTube. To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended, though that may have to do with RCA Victor's engineering, while Rubinstein's technique is audibly tested as Fleisher's is not. Still, it's a good recording - far more presentable than Rubinstein's 1929 Brahms Concerto #2, which bears out his confession that in those days he didn't practice nearly enough.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Heck148 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 9:11 pm

John F wrote:To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended, though that may have to do with RCA Victor's engineering,
I don't know what source you were listening to, but the Reiner's orchestra accompaniment to Rubinstein is brilliant and totally solid. The SACD version is quite splendid - the orchestra sounds like it's right in your living room. Wonderful detail, terrific solo work...this was recorded in 4/54 - an early RCA Chicago effort, and it has much better fidelity than some of the other early ones.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:34 am

Heck148 wrote:
John F wrote:To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended, though that may have to do with RCA Victor's engineering,
I don't know what source you were listening to, but the Reiner's orchestra accompaniment to Rubinstein is brilliant and totally solid. The SACD version is quite splendid - the orchestra sounds like it's right in your living room. Wonderful detail, terrific solo work...this was recorded in 4/54 - an early RCA Chicago effort, and it has much better fidelity than some of the other early ones.
Agree with Heck on this one about the sound quality, and with John that Fleisher plays better. I also really like Van Cliburn.........

Thank-you, John, for the Rubinstein/Coates, a version I had not heard before.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Mon Aug 29, 2016 5:20 am

Heck148 wrote:
John F wrote:To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended, though that may have to do with RCA Victor's engineering,
I don't know what source you were listening to, but the Reiner's orchestra accompaniment to Rubinstein is brilliant and totally solid. The SACD version is quite splendid - the orchestra sounds like it's right in your living room. Wonderful detail, terrific solo work...this was recorded in 4/54 - an early RCA Chicago effort, and it has much better fidelity than some of the other early ones.
As I said, I listened to as much of the Rubinstein/Reiner recording as I could find on YouTube. What YouTube's source was, it doesn't say, but obviously it has to be one of RCA Victor's masterings of this recording, which varied a lot even in the pre-digital days. Remember DynaGroove? :roll:

Anyway, to be specific, in the first movement introduction the timpani, aggressively prominent in all of Szell's recordings, are often with Reiner no more than a rumble reinforcing the bass; the French horns, which stand out in an electrifying way toward the end of the introduction as conducted by Szell, from the 1930s to the 1960s, blend into Reiner's tutti so you only hear them at all if you know what they're playing and strain to hear it. That's the kind of thing I complained about, and still do.

I suppose it's possible that the remastering you like has altered these internal orchestral balances; perhaps you can tell us. And you might listen to Fleisher/Szell too so we can be sure we're making the same comparison. I'm not concerned with differences in sound technology but with differences in interpretation.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Heck148 » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:34 pm

John F wrote:And you might listen to Fleisher/Szell too so we can be sure we're making the same comparison. I'm not concerned with differences in sound technology but with differences in interpretation.
I don't have the Fleischer/Szell Brahms 1st Cto - tho I've often seen it praised...I'll give a listen to the Rubinstein/Reiner again esp in reference to those places you cite...
Szell always liked loud horns...even to a fault at times...his own horn players even make mention of it in interviews...he used to use 6 horns for Beethoven Sym #7!! :P

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:42 pm

The Fleisher/Szell Brahms 1 is linked from a message earlier in this thread; if you have speakers or headphones for use with your computer, you can listen to it that way.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Wallingford » Mon Aug 29, 2016 6:27 pm

I have many live BSO performances in my collection, and one of my most prized is both Brahms Piano Concertos played at Tanglewood '69 with Cliburn in the First, Andre Watts in the Second. Magnificent both. They were from Leinsdorf's final concerts as BSO music director. The final applause is insane on both.
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
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Mon Aug 29, 2016 6:45 pm

I have a couple of BSO memories too - Brahms Concerto #1 in 1958 with Leon Fleisher and Pierre Monteux at Tanglewood (open rehearsal), and Concerto #2 with Sviatoslav Richter and Charles Munch in Symphony Hall in 1960. The latter has been published, the former not as far as I know.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Lance » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:00 am

Ah, the Brahms first piano concerto - and the second, of course. Both high on my list and I have so many recordings of both works that I'm embarrassed to mention them. Rubinstein is high on my list, and Leon Fleisher, whose recording remains perhaps the most classic of all. Certain pianists, such as Schnabel, Solomon, Fleisher, Curzon and several others seem to have the mental condition to perceive a composer's innermost thoughts and to convey them from their minds to their fingers and the ultimate sound. Those who listen intently to music immediately hear something "different" and are quick to observe it. I mention Chopin here because just about every pianist wants to play Chopin. In this case, we can probably all name certain pianists, such as Rubinstein, Moravec (who immediately come to mind) who convey the spirit of Chopin more effectively than other pianists, though there are many who DO play Chopin superbly well. Brahms' intellectualism is quite different from Chopin's in his music, darker, deeper, more introspective in many ways, and he also brings us closer to the beginning of a new century of pianism. Ah ... just some immediate thoughts.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:17 pm

Heck148 wrote:
John F wrote:To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended, though that may have to do with RCA Victor's engineering,
I don't know what source you were listening to, but the Reiner's orchestra accompaniment to Rubinstein is brilliant and totally solid. The SACD version is quite splendid - the orchestra sounds like it's right in your living room. Wonderful detail, terrific solo work...this was recorded in 4/54 - an early RCA Chicago effort, and it has much better fidelity than some of the other early ones.
I just listened to the opening bars of both Szell and Reiner on headphones, and I think I understand what you're talking about, John. Reiner's recording was experimental in 1954, so I suspect that he deliberately soft-pedaled the tympani so as not to strain the then brand-new cartridge technology used to play back the then mono-only records. The Szell/Fleisher dates from 1958, and what a difference those few years made: Szell gives the tympani and horns more prominence, confident that the stereo LP release would handle his sound world with better equipment on the market. First stereo discs from Columbia were in 1959, IIRC.

IOW the Szell is a better recording technically. Reiner's sounds like it was to be issued on 78rpm discs, while Szell's is far more transparent with a greater dynamic range.
That's my 2 cents! :)

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sat Sep 03, 2016 2:48 am

Interesting thoughts about the technical side of Reiner's 1954 recording. But I don't think so. RCA Victor was recording Toscanini and the NBC Symphony in 1954 and earlier, and those recordings do not soft-pedal the tympani or over-blend the orchestral tutti - quite the contrary. For that matter, the Chicago Symphony had been recorded with Kubelik for Mercury Records from 1949 to 1953 in aggressively brilliant sound, as in this 1951 recording of Musorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."



I'm here to tell you that this is how the recording sounds in the 1950s pressing I still have. It was made with a single Telefunken microphone hung above the conductor's head, which means that the balances are not David Hall's, Wilma Cozart's, or Robert Fine's but Rafael Kubelik's.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/fine ... Yk3Mtkf.97

Why do you believe RCA Victor's early Chicago recordings were "experimental"? I don't see why that would be. They had been producing some of the most brilliant-sounding recordings in the business since the 1930s, by Stokowski and the Philadelphia orchestra and Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic, and were the industry leaders. In the 1936 Beethoven 7th, the dynamic range was so wide and the transients so sharp that some phonographs of the time reportedly couldn't play it.



What was more or less experimental in 1954 was stereo recording, but surely this in itself shouldn't have led the Victor engineers to be more restrained. If anything, I should think they would have tried to equal or outdo the Mercury Chicago recordings, which were a byword for the ultimate in high fidelity sound.. Why would Victor have been "experimenting" with less impressive sound?

No, I think we're stuck with the normal conclusion that the sound of the Rubinstein/Reiner recording reflects what Reiner wanted and achieved during the sessions, or else was a deliberate choice by the RCA Victor engineers (with Reiner's OK) for some reason other than the technical limitations you speak of, which in 1954 did not exist.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:20 am

Aw, heck, John!

Stereo recording WAS experimental in 1954: new microphones and stereo recording equipment had just been invented, and technicians (and musicians) were still learning how to use these new full-range studios. That's just a fact.

Every recording is a collaboration between the engineers and the conductor: that this collaboration included downplaying the tympani in the opening is self-evident by just listening to the results.

These earlier stereo recordings were issued only in mono on record, but they were commercially available on reel-to-reel tape as early as 1955.

Tympani strokes were very difficult for early cartridges to track, so in the process of disc cutting, a running master tape was mixed down to avoid sudden spikes in the sound. I'm not sure of this, but the opening bars on my Rubinstein CD sound like they were taken from a running master, with the dynamic range squeezed down. Reiner sounds like he's got the tympani mushed in with the rest of the orchestra, while Szell is clear as crystal. The rest of Reiner's disc is in better sound, btw.

I find I'm repeating myself, so I'll end my comments here.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:25 am

You said, "Reiner's recording was experimental in 1954, so I suspect that he deliberately soft-pedaled the tympani so as not to strain the then brand-new cartridge technology used to play back the then mono-only records"; my reply was on that topic, so maybe I can be forgiven for it. Anyway, this digression is over and we're back where I started: "To my ears, Reiner's contribution is too soft-edged and blended." And it's Reiner, not the RCA Victor engineers, who made it so.

I enjoyed renewing acquaintance with the Kubelic/Chicago "Pictures." What a recording! I don't think I've heard Musorgsky/Ravel sound more exciting. For Musorgsky plain, of course there's Richter, even more exciting than a full orchestra.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Heck148 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:24 pm

John F wrote: Why do you believe RCA Victor's early Chicago recordings were "experimental"? I don't see why that would be.
Because they were!! RCA recorded many of those early Chicago recordings in both mono, and in stereo, with separate takes. The results were sometimes hit and miss...also, they got some strange stereo "images" as well - the Ein Heldenleben '54 version, with the "hole in the middle" - lots of separation...not alot center stage. The ASZ '54 version is quite distant, lots of orchestral detail obscured - nowhere near as well-recorded as the great 1962 version - which has detail and sonic wallop in abundant quantities. Additionally, I read that there was experimenting with the features of the hall itself - cloth backdrops applied, removed, all of which could alter the sound.
So, yes, much experimenting was going on....for what reason I don't know. Perhaps Don Tait, on another board can shed some light on this...

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:22 am

Thanks for the information - I didn't know that RCA Victor's early stereo recordings got it wrong. The recording venue would have been new to them too, though I don't see why that should have been a factor since Mercury had made brilliantly effective recordings in Chicago in the previous years. Whatever, I wonder whether the orchestral balances in what I heard can be blamed entirely on bad work by the RCA engineers. After all, Reiner was not obliged to OK releasing a recording which he disapproved.

What 1962 recording are you referring to - the remake with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony? I think that's a much better performance in every way - even Rubinstein, 8 years older, is in more commanding form. Yet a week ago, you said Rubinstein/Reiner was your favorite Brahms 1... But never mind, it's all about taste anyway, and with the factual issues disposed of (and then some!), I guess that winds it up.
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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by Heck148 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:16 am

John F wrote:Thanks for the information - I didn't know that RCA Victor's early stereo recordings got it wrong. The recording venue would have been new to them too,
different company, different engineers?? the RCA concurrent mono/stereo recording format was puzzling, for sure...for example - the Eroica was recorded ii mono only IIRC. if there was a stereo take, it was never, TMK, released . :?
What 1962 recording are you referring to - the remake....
I was referring to the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" recordings made by Reiner/CSO '54 and '62...The later one is much better, both as a performance, and a recording...the earlier one is very recessed, and much orchestral detail is obscured...by '62, RCA had figured it out.
with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony?
Ha!! I wouldn't rate Leinsdorf/BSO best or better at anything...not a good combination...a real down period in BSO history.

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by John F » Mon Sep 05, 2016 6:13 am

Heck148 wrote:
John F wrote:... with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony?
Ha!! I wouldn't rate Leinsdorf/BSO best or better at anything...not a good combination...a real down period in BSO history.
I'm no Leinsdorf fan either, but he could be a good partner in concertos depending on the soloist, and as I said, Rubinstein's remake of Brahms 1 with the BSO is a great improvement over Rubinstein/Reiner, to my surprise. Hear for yourself, if you like:

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Re: The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto

Post by maestrob » Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:45 am

Well, we agree on something else John. I like the Brahms I/Leinsdorf/Rubinstein you just posted.

Heifetz's recording of the Beethoven concerto with Munch/Boston is one of the finest of that piece. IMHO, working with Heifetz inspired Munch and his players, just as working with Richter inspired Leinsdorf when leading the Chicago symphony in the Brahms II.

I'll still take Szell/Cleveland in Brahms I any day w/Fleisher, so we're back where we started. :)

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