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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Are the Bronfman/Zinman Beethoven piano concertos the modern answer to Fleisher/Szell? It would seem so. When this cycle was issued originally in the mid-2000s the distribution situation with Arte Nova was just a tad questionable on these shores, and Sony/BMG were more of a mess than usual. So we were not able to review the entire series. Now the situation seems to have straightened out as regards availability, at least for now, with the entire cycle ready to hand not just as individual discs, but also in the huge Zinman “Great Symphonies” box (which these works obviously are not, but never mind).
Suffice it to say that Bonfman and Zinman’s “Emperor” remains at the same high level as
the rest of the performances. Indeed, it’s the very consistency of the cycle that constitutes one of its most impressive features. Like Fleicher/Szell, these are taught, incisive, “classical” interpretations that nonetheless never minimize the music’s romantic fire. Bronfman’s playing throughout is stupendous. Listen to the independent articulation of the right and left hands in the first movement development section’s turbulent sequences for a telling example of first-rate Beethoven playing. There isn’t a note that does not sound purposeful or necessary. The Adagio is exactly “un poco mosso,” as Beethoven instructs, while the finale has tremendous gusto at an ideally propulsive tempo. It’s a great performance.
The choral works are equally compelling. The Choral Fantasy is such a strange piece–part concerto, part cantata, part sketch for the finale of the Ninth Symphony–and this performance is as cogent and festive as any on disc. There’s even room for a not-inconsiderable bonus in the form of the brief chorus Becalmed Sea and Prosperous Voyage. Note: it should not be “Calm Sea,” as we usually see it, since the entire point of the poem’s dark first half is the fear engendered by being stuck mid-ocean with no wind to fill the sails. The ship is “becalmed.” Anyway, the singing is as fresh and incisive as the orchestral playing, and the sonics are gorgeous.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Yefim Bronfman (Piano)
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra,
Swiss Chamber Chorus
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria
Meerestille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 112 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra,
Swiss Chamber Chorus
Written: 1814-1815; Vienna, Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 5 Customer Reviews )
Zinman / Bronfman vs. Szell/Fleisher?? October 27, 2016
By owen ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews
"As good as the Zinman/Bronfam collaborations are I don't think I'm ready to declare them comparable to Szell/Fleisher. Nevertheless this is a very fine performance and recording which should be judged on its own merits. I really can't add anything to the astute comments of David Hurwitz and customer Henry S. However let me direct your attention to my prior review of nos. 3 and 4 where I point out the availablity of all five of Mr B's Piano Concertos in a 3 CD set from Brilliant Classics for $18- or the complete Beethoven recordings by Zinman/Zurich Tonhalle Orch. from Sony in an 11 CD set for a mere $30-."
Solid, faithful Beethoven June 22, 2016
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto is one of those core repertoire masterworks that world class pianists feel compelled to conquer. Yefim Bronfman obviously felt this compulsion, and his rendition with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra must have really satisfied him. It certainly satisfied this reviewer!! This is a very clean, straightforward performance with splendid orchestral backing from David Zinman's majestic orchestra. Bronfman does not appear to have played games with Beethoven's score, instead remaining faithful to the original vision of this glorious work. The result is a recording of the Emperor which anyone would be proud to own. The merit of this Arte Nova disk is then enhanced by 2 other Beethoven works which are heard far less frequently than the Emperor. Bronfman is completely in his element as he develops the energetic piano role in the Choral Fantasy for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra. Rounding out the program is a beautiful work for chorus and orchestra, Calm (Becalmed) Sea and Prosperous Voyage, in which we can sense and feel Beethoven's mastery of conflict, tension, and resolution, in this case using the theme of maritime travel. A really fine recording, this is well worth anyone's time to explore. Recommended."
Middle of the pack August 17, 2013
By Jeffrey W. (ALLENDALE, NJ) See All My Reviews
"I purchased this CD because it contains two of my favorite Beethoven piano and orchestra works. The Emperor concerto is beyond compare, of course, and the Choral Fantasy is an underrated tryout for the final movement of the Symphony no. 9. I was not disappointed by the Bronfman/Zinman collaboration, but neither was I overly impressed, thus the 2 and a half (or 3) star rating. My favorite version of the Emperor (coupled with the 4th) which I have owned for a long time is by Claudio Arrau with Colin Davis and the Staatskapelle Dresden. Choosing an outstanding performance of the Choral fantasy is a little more difficult, and I have heard many. However, I have a vintage recording (coupled with the 3rd piano concerto) by Rudolf Serkin with Bernstein and NY Philharmonic that sounds very good to my ears."