Warm, lyrical, and aristocratic in his interpretations, Artur Rubinstein performed impressively into extremely old age, and he was a keyboard prodigy almost from the time he could climb onto a piano bench. He came from a mercantile rather than a musical family, but fixated on the piano as soon as he heard it.
Hélène Grimaud's performances on this disc a coupling of Beethoven "Emperor" Piano Concerto with his Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 101 are truly fantastic. Her technique is essentially untouchable and her tone is surprisingly colorful. And, as in her previous recordings, her interpretations are outrageous. With Vladimir Jurowski and the Dresden Staatskapelle in the Concerto, Grimaud is unafraid to do whatever she wants with balance and tempos.
Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today and once again served notice of his extraordinary talent in Summer 2011 when he conducted two concerts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam at the prestigious Lucerne Festival. This concert, available on DVD and Blu-ray features, amongst a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and Dvořák, the Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s majestic Fifth Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Etude in F major.
This particular recording has been a favourite of mine since its initial release nearly 30 years ago. Stephen Kovacevich (or Bishop-Kovacevich. if you prefer) appeals as 1 of those pianists whose playing is rather forthright & precise, giving us here a rather lyrical presentation of the concerti full of grace & good demeanor. A little on the light side compared to those who pound out their Beethovens some would think.
Guiomar Novaes' life story has been the stuff of legend in the classical world for decades and this CD is clear evidence why none other than Claude Debussy himself helped single her out for greatness as a teenage prodigy. Recorded when she was in her 50's, she's absolutely stupendous, pulling off difficult passage after passage with fabulous effortlessness, her trademark. But forget the 'feminine piano' tag that has been given to her at times, this CD shows she can bring on the 'thunder and lightning' whenever necessary. Thanks to Vox Box Legends for this magnificent digitally mastered 2 CD set, the wonderful sound, and very detailed, extensive liner notes that put most other liner notes to shame.
Though close to each other in date, the two works on this disc, which are the last in which Beethoven wrote for piano and orchestra together, are in other respects quite dissimilar. The Emperor is a standard piano concerto or so it seems to us, because it was uniquely influential in defining the form for the next 100 years. To its first audiences it must have seemed highly individual, and even idiosyncratic. The Choral Fantasy, on the other hand, appears to us an unorthodox, even unique conception, much freer in form, as befits the title fantasy which Beethoven chose for it. Yet both are entirely characteristic of the composer in their deployment of a structure that served the purposes of the content of the work itself to its greatest advantage. Concluding the Complete Orchestral Works of Beethoven, this vol. 12 finds Thomas Dausgaard, Boris Berezovsky and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on top form.
"…a commanding performance of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy… Brendel's playing of the slow movement of No. 5 was for me one of the high spots of his set, for its measured calm is perfect…" –Gramophone