Search MusicWeb Here


selling Internationaly

aSymphonies 1 and 5 £9.00 post free

See also

Symphonies 2 and 3

Vision of Judgement £9 post free

Newest Releases

Symphonies 4&5 £9 post free

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett




Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83* [46.46]
Piano Sonata No. 1 in C, Op. 1 [31.57]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
*Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf
rec. *Orchestra Hall, Chicago, October 1960; Hasselberg, Scheune, July 1988
BMG-RCA CLASSIC LIBRARY 82876-60860-2 [78.45]


This performance of the concerto has a surprise in store, and it comes not from the pianist but from the podium. In place of the efficient Leinsdorf, impersonal and imperious, that we've come to expect, we get a genial, relaxed "Uncle Erich" who enjoys making music with a responsive ensemble. The opening horn solo emerges from silence with a sensitively shaded legato; indeed, all the concerto's cantabile passages go with suave tone and a real poetic nuance quite unlike the harder-edged orchestral sound of Leinsdorf's Boston years. If other interpreters - say, Fleisher and Szell (Sony) - have better realized the scherzo's volatility, the solid, compact tone and forward drive of this performance are certainly to the point. After a ruminative cello solo, the Andante expands into turbulent drama, finally subsiding into a mesmeric, long-breathed stillness. None of this focus on the orchestra is meant to downplay Sviatoslav Richter's excellence - though his role is obbligato in nature rather than primed for display - indeed, his pingy, sparkling launching of the finale sets the tone for a rendition that, by the coda, positively scampers.

Richter himself cuts a stronger profile in the Op. 1 Sonata. Granted, it's easier to make a strong impression when you have the stage to yourself; still, the forthright address and technical assurance with which the veteran pianist begins the piece makes you forget its basically heavyweight scale. In the first movement, he marks off important arrival points rhetorically and commandingly. If the evenly balanced tone occasionally hardens in sequences of block chords - much of the writing, even in melodic passages, is "vertical" in this way - no sense of strain ever intrudes, while pearly articulations in the high register offer a welcome tonal contrast. The Andante starts with Brahms casting about in dark, vaguely troubled waters, later easing into gentler lyrical ruminations. Richter allows the music to blossom expressively, the better to set off the thunderous octaves of the Scherzo. And the bounding, impulsive energy he brings to the Finale is simply beyond the (literal) reach of many players.

Brahms's scoring can be thick, and the engineers don't entirely avoid congestion in the tuttis of the concerto. Digitization, however, has restored a measure of tonal luster missing from the shallow, glassy Gold Seal LPs issued Stateside. In the sonata, the piano is ringy and full-bodied, without harshness. Warmly recommended.

Stephen Francis Vasta




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Prima voce
Red Priest
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Editor in Chief
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.