This generous coupling of Brahms’s two concertos for stringed instruments has become relatively common in the age of CD thanks to compilations like the Philips disc of Szeryng and Starker‚ analogue recordings dating from the early 1970s. Modern digital recordings expressly designed for issue in coupling are much rarer‚ the Teldec issue of Kremer and Clemens Hagen being the most notable one.
Maurizio Pollini's late 1970s film recordings of Beethoven Piano Concertos 3 and 5; Mozart Piano Concertos 19 and 23; and Brahms Piano Concerto 2 have it all: great pianism, beautiful playing by the Vienna Philharmonic, magnificent conducting by Karl Bohm (Beethoven, Mozart) and Claudio Abbado (Brahms), all adding up to one thing: a beautiful experience. These DVDs are a feast for the ears: great audio, and the eyes: great video. The 1970s Unitel films used in this DG release have held up very well in the vaults: there are no glitches or imperfections in the picture. The camera work is also excellent, and serves the music being performed.
There is no audience, and the recording venue: Vienna's Musikvereien, has wonderful acoustics - one of the best concert halls in the civilized world. It was worth alot to me to see Karl Bohm smile at Maurizio Pollini at the beginning of I, of Mozart's Piano Concerto 19 with it's humorous, scherzo like theme which begins the concerto. Highly recommended!
The partnership of Serkin and Abbado in Mozart is a fascinating one. They are such different musical personalities, yet they work remarkably well together, so that each performance becomes an artistic amalgam of two quite different artistic approaches. Abbado matches a natural spontaneous warmth (listen to the beguiling way the orchestra shapes the secondary theme in the first movement of the A major Concerto) with the utmost refinement of detail; whereas Serkin, patrician, authoritative, strong, is more selfconsciously expressive when he deviates from a strictly rhythmic presentation of the melodic line in the same movement.
Viktoria Mullova is one of the most versatile and charismatic violinists to have emerged in the late 20th century, demonstrating a high level of mastery in broad range of repertoires, from Baroque to Romantic and post-Romantic to jazz and crossover. She established her reputation early in the 1980s, winning both the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky competitions and going on to win the Grand Prix du Disc and a Diapason d'Or Award, as well as garnering numerous other honors. Her widely acclaimed 1987 Philips recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is ample proof of her sure grasp of the idiosyncrasies of the Italian Baroque, and the freshness and vitality of her playing has made her version a favorite with listeners and critics. Mullova performs with passionate musicality and technical finesse, and Claudio Abbado leads the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in a nuanced, idiomatic accompaniment.
This is a rather brisk reading of Brahms' masterpiece, the most ambitious work in his output and one of the greatest compositions of its type. Though Herreweghe's tempos often pushed the music to its limits here (except for the first section), the performance never actually sounded fast, or at least not offensively fast. In fact, it challenges the Levine/RCA effort.
Bernard Haitink conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms’s great orchestral works, including the complete symphonies. The concertos feature three great soloists: pianist Claudio Arrau, violinist Henryk Szeryng, and cellist Janos Starker. "No one, I trust, will deny that Arrau has lived with, wrestled with, and in a truly terribly way ’known’ the D minor Concerto for more years than most of us can consciously recall. Where contemporary pianists have often tended to refine or domesticate the concerto, withdrawing it from the world of heroic endeavour, Arrau has always done the reverse. No pianist, apart possibly from Serkin in his several recordings, has communicated so formidably the work’s scope: its seriousness and its anxious, tragic mood. Often Arrau makes free with the text. But the vision is huge, the technique astonishing. Haitink is a worthy accompanist."