Rudolf Serkin's 1964 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C minor is surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, and certainly his finest performance of the work. The energy and enthusiasm and even passion he brings to Concerto in C minor is overwhelming, and indeed, it overwhelms Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, who accompany Serkin with the sort of commitment that only a conductor and orchestra give to soloists when they are deeply inspired. But while Serkin's 1962 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in E flat major is also surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, it is not quite Serkin's finest recording of the work.
Stereo recordings from the early 1960s. Everyone has sentimental favorites, and this set is one of mine. Yes, the ensemble has a few rough spots now and again—nothing serious—but the playing has such warmth and emotional generosity, that bigness of spirit that’s so often forgotten in today’s Beethoven performances. The Budapest Quartet clearly frames its view of the composer in terms of the great, late quartets. So Op. 18, cultured and intelligent thought it is, could do perhaps with a touch more energy in spots, a leaner basic sonority. But once we hit the great middle quartets it’s smooth sailing right through to the end.
"…I will treasure this set until the end of my days, and hope others will attain the same joy from it after I am gone." ~SA-CD.net
…The rating says five stars. I say: there are too many stars to count. Get this SACD, and listen to Beethoven the humanist who plumbed and characterized all those joys and struggles we have come to call the human condition.
This is an energetic and well played performance and Mark Obert-Thorn has done marvellously well with the transfer. I love the “Pastoral” of all symphonies and to be able to hear this recording from seventy years ago in very tolerable sound is wonderful. I must say that for the general listener the recording from 1960 on Sony is in better sound and indeed a better performance. The Columbia Symphony Orchestra was in fact the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. There is another recording from 1946 from Philadelphia but I haven’t heard it in a decent transfer.(David R Dunsmore)
Following his landmark recordings, "Beethoven - The Late Piano Sonatas" and "Bach - Partitas", both of which has won him international acclaim, Igor Levit is now tackling another three major works: Bach's Goldberg Variations, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, and Frederic Rzewski's Variations on "The People United Will Never Be Defeated".
It is testament to Igor Levit's invention and the command of his repertoire that in one release he is able to combine arguably two of history’s greatest sets of variations for the keyboard, complete alongside a classic of late 20th century piano music by contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski.