Back in the '50s and '60s when RCA was one of the two dominant American classical record companies, the big debate was over which of their two recordings of Brahms Piano Concerto in B flat major was better: the Emil Gilels with Fritz Reiner from 1958 or the Sviatoslav Richter with Leinsdorf from 1960. Both are with the Chicago Symphony at the peak of its strength and sensitivity.
Despite a career spanning more than 50 years and a gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition (among others), pianist John Lill may be an artist sadly missing from many CD collections. Heralded as an intellectual musician, his approach to the instrument is decidedly academic and straightforward. This is not to say that his music-making is not impassioned or thoughtful anymore than the same could be said of Starker or Gingold simply because they are master technicians at their instruments.
Spanish pianist Joaquin Achucarro performs Brahms' Piano Concerto No 2, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis, at St Luke's Hall, London. Also included is a solo performance filmed amongst the paintings of the Goya Gallery at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
I can't think of any professional performer who wouldn't be glad to claim Graffman's tremendously solid, albeit simpler pianism. Indeed, Graffman's sense of forward sweep and sustaining power within long, introspective passages score over what Van Cliburn halfheartedly delivered in his own recording with the Boston Symphony a few years later…Reissued through Arkivmusic.com's "on demand" program, this disc is well worth hearing. -Jed Distler; classicstoday.com