RCA Red Seal has been for many
years BMG’s prime label, with all releases
being at full price. This new series
of re-issues at budget price rather
throws some dealers so if you are looking
for this disc in a shop beware. And
you really should be looking for it
as it is a superb disc in every way.
Richter is caught here
at the summit of his powers, as is the
Boston Symphony under Munch in the concerto.
Richter is superb in the sonatas.
The Concerto is perhaps
the finer of the first two of Beethoven’s
early works in this genre, and the concentration
of soloist, conductor and orchestra
makes this performance very notable.
It has been caught ‘on the wing’ by
the RCA engineers, presumably in Symphony
Hall, Boston (no details are given in
The latest CD transfers
of old LP recordings have shown us just
how poor the original pressings were
and how magnificent the master tapes
have come up in remastering. Richter
has been available in this concerto
before (one in Schleswig-Holstein, and
another in Bakala), but each of these
issues is in worse sound than the present
disc. This has to be balanced against
the fact that Richter preferred to perform
in public and there is a somewhat higher
level of spontaneity in those other
discs. The present one was recorded
on the second of Richter’s visits to
the USA when he was still relatively
unknown in the West, and his recordings
were being greeted with universal delight.
The Concerto recorded
on a previous visit was Brahms’ Second,
with the Chicago orchestra under Leinsdorf;
why not Reiner, I wonder [see
footnote]. I have always rated
Leinsdorf a little stilted, but there
are no such problems here. The orchestra
are really on their toes and the dovetailing
of their contribution with the soloist
is absolute magic. Symphony Hall (I
assume) gives up its superb acoustic
once again and the results are first
RCA have generously
coupled this concerto with two sonatas,
written close together, the second of
which has become the cornerstone of
many pianist’s repertoires. It is good
to have them here in such a clear and
forward recording with the minimum of
background noise to distract the listener,
(unlike the chirping bird which disfigures
Richter’s recording of the J. S. Bach
Well Tempered Klavier also on
I can’t tell whether
these sonatas were also recorded in
Symphony Hall, but the recording is
similarly clear and bright like that
accorded the Concerto.
No. 22 is in two movements
and is relatively short about 11 minutes,
and is in two roughly equal movements.
Beethoven was obviously experimenting
in this sonata with rhythm and the drama
implicit in this work comes out clearly
in the subsequent work.
long a favourite with music lovers and
pianists alike, is here given a very
strong and forward moving performance.
Richter keeps the momentum moving and
the work sparkles under his fingers.
Recommended with enthusiasm.
NOTE FROM ANTHONY
John Philips, in his review of the
disc mentions Richter's previous recording
in the US of the Brahms 2 in Chicago.
He wonders why Leinsdorf was the conductor
and not Reiner. My understanding is
that Reiner, who was supposed to conduct
the recording, took ill, and Leinsdorf
filled in at the last minute.
It's interesting to me to note the
difference in the orchestra in the Leinsdorf
recording, and the earlier Brahms 2
that Reiner conducted with Gilels. While
I think that, all things considered,
Reiner was a greater conductor than
Leinsdorf, I prefer Leinsdorf at the
helm. There's a motorific drive in the
second movement, and a repose in the
third that Reiner doesn't quite equal.
While I do hear a little untidiness
in the orchestra under Leinsdorf, I
think he and Richter present a more
satisfying overall experience than Reiner/Gilels.