Schubert sonatas

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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 83 (1878-1881)
Academic Festival Overture Op. 80 (1880)
Alexis Weissenberg (piano)
Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI, Turin/Peter Maag
Recorded February 1960 live in Turin
ARTS 43038-2 [58.15]


The meeting of Alexis Weissenberg and Peter Maag in Turin in 1960 is the pretext for this preserved radio broadcast performance of Brahms’ Second Concerto. Opening quite broadly – at a slightly quicker pace than Gilels and Jochum and Fischer-Furtwängler – one almost immediately encounters the kind of capricious italicisation that makes one fear the worst. Weissenberg’s concentration on immediately sculpting diminuendi and indulging rubati threatens to subvert the architecture of the concerto before we are even underway. I hesitate to say that even Horowitz and Toscanini are preferable to this (because they aren’t, or only if your blood is made of ice) but there’s no denying the subjectivist approach of the pianist. His attempt indeed here at magisterial pianism is horribly misconceived and the line fractures badly, Weissenberg alternating between would-be leonine playing and winsome daintiness. Luckily, but too late for me, things improve as the concerto develops. I can’t help rid myself though of the feeling that Weissenberg simply fails to gauge its emotive temperature but I liked the way he follows the cello solo in the Andante in his flowing but not unsympathetic way.

Maag’s fine, lean Academic Festival Overture begins proceedings but I’m afraid that in a crowded market for historical performances, let alone current contenders, this is strictly for admirers of pianist and conductor.

Jonathan Woolf



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