Composer: Johannes Brahms, Cesar Franck
Performer: Alexis Weissenberg
Orchestra: Philadelphia Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Riccardo Muti, Herbert von Karajan
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 225 MB
01. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor Op. 15 (2004 Digital Remaster): I. Maestoso
02. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor Op. 15 (2004 Digital Remaster): II. Adagio
03. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor Op. 15 (2004 Digital Remaster): III. Rondo (Allegro non troppo)
04. Symphonic Variations
This album contains two greatly contrasting works from the standard repertoire, the Brahms Concerto No. 1, and the Cesar Franck Symphonic Variations. One is a work of great profundity and the other quite lightweight, though pleasant. It is the Brahms Concerto that consumes most of the time and is of greatest interest. Weissenberg’s collaborator in the Brahms is Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and in the Cesar Franck, Herbert Van Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.
In the Brahms, we have a perfect mating of men and music. Especially in works with the double exposition, the orchestra plays virtually as important a role as the piano and the great Philadelphia Orchestra gives an inspired performance of this work as does pianist Weissenberg. Here, technique, temperament, and long familiarity with this repertoire all unite in a performance of this concerto that is unsurpassed by any of the many recorded versions I am familiar with. For years, the Arthur Rubinstein performance was my favorite as his rendition of the slow movement in particular was inimitable. But I must say that Weissenberg feels this music equally deeply and puts his technical mastery so completely into the service of the music that you are hardly conscious of technique at all. One is conscious of his architectural concept of the work and of the individual movements where not only phrases, but sections, move inevitably to a climax, or inevitably subside. He effectively leads the listener from one section to another in the outside movements with the slightest relaxation of tempo. And all the time, Muti and the orchestra are right with him. All the elements of the Brahms style are there: power, shading, voluminous melody, clearly defined rhythm, and technical virtuosity — always in the service of musical expression. It is a magnificent recording of this work by pianist and orchestra.
The Symphonic Variations are delightful, but in my opinion, hardly among Franck’s greatest works. The work was added to this album as filler, and as such, is well played. But it fails to excite after such a superb reading of the Brahms. Aimez-vous Brahms? Then you’ll love this album!