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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83a (1881) [47:19]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, Pathétiqueb (1798/99) [18:51].
Misha Dichter (piano)
aLeipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur.
rec. aGewandhaus, Leipzig, June 1977; bDoopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam, May 1976. ADD


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There is no doubting the oomph of the recording here, particularly where the piano is concerned. Pentatone Classics has taken Philips recordings of the 1970s and issued them in their original quadraphonic layout, calling the result RQR (‘Remastered Quadro Recordings’). In the Concerto, Mischa Dichter’s chords land with a Brahmsian weight that is entirely laudable. The crystal-clear sound - are these really mid-late seventies recordings? You will ask - adds a measure of enjoyment to the whole. The orchestra plays with real affection for Masur, now such a major figure in London.

Dichter is a confident, intelligent pianist. Any doubts that he begins in too literal a fashion are soon dispelled. Chording and voice-leading are very carefully considered and technical challenges seem not to exist. The hurdles that just about everyone seems to struggle with pose him no problems. The darkness of the second movement is more pronounced here than in most, yet it is here also that doubts begin to set in – Dichter seems rather clumsy, rather leaden, leaving Masur and his Leipzig players to reinject the energy. If only the third movement drew the listener more into this crepuscular side of Brahms. The promising beginning - lovely cello solo! - is not carried through, alas, and the finale, despite some nice rhythmic pointing, is generally uninvolving.

There is no way this could dispel the greats. Pollini and Gilels top the list with Rubinstein/Reiner not far behind. The latter, incidentally, is also available on RCA Red Seal Living Stereo SACD – see Jonathan Woolf’s excellently written review.

The Beethoven Sonata feels rather tagged on, a neatly-played space-filler with an upfront recording. Whatever the strengths of Dichter’s finger articulation, there is no doubting this does not even approach great Beethoven playing. Beethoven the dynamo has largely lost his charge in the first movement, so the return of the slow introduction seems of little interest here, amazingly. The slow movement is a clear song without words, and its lyricism seems to appeal to Dichter. It is the most successful part of the sonata by far. The finale exudes only fair excitement, no more.

Musically disappointing overall.

Colin Clarke


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