British pianist Jonathan Plowright makes his début recording on BIS. Hailed by Gramophone as ‘one of the finest living pianists’, Plowright is recognised worldwide as a truly exceptional artist. Brahms’s Piano Sonata No. 3 is heroic in scale, unconventional in layout and exudes high quality making it one of the most impressive sonatas since those of Beethoven and Schubert.
EMI Classics pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and Virgin Classics' string quartet, the Artemis, have joined their formidable musical forces to record two of the most beautiful piano quintets of the Romantic chamber music repertoire. Their collaboration makes for what will certainly be considered a landmark recording, bringing a new vigour to these well-known masterpieces. The programme couples 2 major piano quintets by Brahms and Schumann. Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor Op.34 is the composer's only piano quintet and is considered one of his finest compositions. The work began life as a string quintet, later evolving into a sonata for two pianos, before taking its final form in 1866. Of Schumann's Piano Quintet in E Op 44, Clara Schumann, who premiered it said: "A glorious piece, extremely brilliant and effective. Schumann's sole composition for piano quintet was composed in 1842, a year practically devoted to the composition of chamber works for piano and strings.
The terms "classic" and "definitive", so overused that they are in danger of losing their meaning, absolutely apply to these recordings. The Fleisher/Szell Brahms Piano Concertos, recorded in 1958 and 1962, had not been available since their 1980s incarnation as Odyssey LPs. Now, in amazingly solid, vibrant remastered sound Sony has resurrected these mighty performances, which along with Fleisher's Beethoven concerto recordings, are vital documents of this pianist's early prowess - stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and well-channeled passion. Szell's fiery, tempestuous reading of the Piano Concerto No. 1's orchestral score (with a riled up Cleveland Orchestra) has never been surpassed, let alone equaled, not even by Szell himself in his subsequent recordings. Fleisher and Szell present the Second Concerto in a grandly classical manner, relating it to Beethoven's Emperor and avoiding the massiveness and bulk of some more recent interpretations. Here the pianist tellingly combines wit and intelligence with a powerful sense of urgency. The same goes for the appended Waltzes and Handel Variations from 1956, which Fleisher plays with such brilliance that we can't wait for the next passage. Sony has jettisoned the original cardboard packaging for the more sturdy jewel box, hence this new review. Whether paper or plastic, get these great performances while you still can
- Victor Carr; Classicstoday.com