Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 [47:11]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 [30:15]
Edwin Fischer (piano) (Brahms); Walter Gieseking (piano) (Schumann)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. Alte Philharmonie, Berlin, 8 Nov 1942 (Brahms), 3 Mar 1942 (Schumann).
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 347 [77:26]
Given their provenance these two recordings are pretty good. That said, don’t get your hopes too high. For all the miracles wrought by Andrew Rose and his XR method these remain grainy and roughened. On this evidence it comes as no surprise to hear that they survived Nazi wartime as vintage, live concert detritus, being spirited away to Moscow as war booty and decades of storage in the USSR.
Of the two works the Brahms emerges in meaty mono and with a string sound that is better than tolerable. Fischer, Furtwängler and the Berlin Phil give a monumental and blazingly atmospheric performance with not a little pointed wit in the exultant Allegretto. It could never rate as a chosen sole representative in anyone’s collection but it would make a nice contrast for those days when you would like a few risks and maybe a modicum of bluster. It’s certainly not dull. No doubt I will provoke sighs of despair but if you are looking for something to surprise and delight in your Brahms 2 then try Serkin on Sony-CBS if you can find it. A concert discovery last year was a pretty much ideal performance by Emanuel Ax at the BBC Proms with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink. Ax and his partners delivered a joyously life-enhancing reading of each of the two Brahms concertos.
As for the Schumann it is a shade or two less desirable in comparison to the sound of the Brahms: the piano is a mite clattery, the treble hazed and the distortion crazing more obvious. The promethean power of the pianism, the clarion call to ardour and the complementary fire of the conductor and orchestra leave us grateful and ready to remember this performance with enough fondness to prompt a return visit despite the coughing. The liner-notes are rather scant but the short technical notes are well worth a read.
For those days when you would like a few risks and maybe a modicum of bluster. It’s certainly not dull.
Masterwork Index: Brahms concerto 2 ~~ Schumann concerto