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Brahms: Piano Concerto No 2; Schumann: Phantasie / Backhaus, Böhm, Et Al

Release Date: 08/01/2004 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 94044   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsRobert Schumann
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saxon State OrchestraSächsische Staatskapelle
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Wilhelm Backhaus' 1939 Brahms Second Concerto remains one of this oft-recorded work's discographic high-points. The pianist negotiates each and every one of the composer's cruel demands and never sweats a bead. Many pianists slow down to cope with the opening cadenza's lardy chords and awkward leaps, or wrestle the taxing trills like Jacob against the Angel. Not Backhaus. He's equally at home with the haunting slow movement's long-lined introspection. The pianist's supple fluidity in the Finale contrasts to his heavier-gaited playing in his mono and stereo LP-era remakes. No question that Backhaus' clean, Apollonian artistry boasts far greater accuracy compared to the sloppier Rubinstein and Schnabel 78-rpm traversals.

Read more /> True, you don't get the ferocity and quaking unrest Horowitz brought to the piano part in his famous recording one year later, nor does Karl Böhm's solid support match the dynamic range and tensile expression Toscanini drew from the NBC Orchestra (its string section totally outclasses its Dresden counterpart). But Backhaus enjoys superior sonics, and Hänssler's remastering engineers obtain clean results from excellent source material. The bass is boosted, with high-end frequencies scaled down to ensure minimum surface noise. Similar restoration methods are used for Backhaus' 1937 Schumann Fantasia, but to less convincing musical effect. You lose the ringing definition and overtones that are present in both the Pearl and Andante transfers, although again, some listeners might prefer Hänssler's bass emphasis. Whatever transfer you choose, it's hard not to be won over by Backhaus' swift tempos, sweeping authority and directness, and ironclad yet flexible technique. Small wonder that this was the reference Schumann Fantasia of the shellac era, and its virtues hold their own to this day.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saxon State Orchestra,  Sächsische Staatskapelle
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878-1881; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1939 
Phantasie for Piano in C major, Op. 17 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836-1838; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1937 

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