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John Browning: The Complete RCA Album Collection


Release Date: 06/16/2017 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 88985395032  
Composer:  Samuel BarberWilliam SchumanLudwig van BeethovenSergei Prokofiev,   ... 
Performer:  John BrowningLeonard Rose
Conductor:  George SzellErich LeinsdorfSeiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland OrchestraBoston Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 12 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the most respected American pianists of his generation, John Browning earned the acclaim and admiration of audiences and professionals alike for his immaculate technique and cultivated musicianship. Paying tribute to a uniquely distinctive artist, this collection is the first ever release of his complete recordings for Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor – including a full Debussy recital that has never been released before.

• The first ever release of John Browning’s complete recordings for RCA Victor from 1965 to 1996 on 12 CDs

• Extra CD with a previously unreleased Debussy recital, adding 5 works to Browning’s RCA discography

• 6 works to appear on CD for the first time, remastered
Read more from the original analogue tapes using 24 bit / 192 kHz technology

• Includes his early single recording for Columbia Masterworks from 1964 of the Barber Piano Concerto

• Informative booklet with a new essay by Jed Distler, and full discographical details

• Facsimile LP-sleeves and -labels Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 38 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
2.
A Song of Orpheus by William Schuman
Performer:  Leonard Rose (Cello)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
3.
Variations (33) for Piano on a Waltz by Diabelli in C major, Op. 120 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1819-1823; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D flat major, Op. 10 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1912; Russia 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 16 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913/1923; USSR 
6.
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Symphonic Etudes for Piano, Op. 13 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837/1852; Germany 
8.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C major, Op. 26 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1921; USA 
9.
Concerto for Piano left hand no 4 in B flat major, Op. 53 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Paris, France 
10.
Sonatine for Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
11.
Le tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; orch. 191; France 
12.
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
13.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
14.
Etudes (12) for Piano, Op. 10 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1833; Poland 
15.
Etudes (12) for Piano, Op. 25 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832-1836; Paris, France 
16.
Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello in C major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804; Vienna, Austria 
17.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 38 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
18.
Souvenirs, Op. 28 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
19.
Carnival of the animals by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Written: 1886 
20.
Préludes, Book 2 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
21.
Pour le piano, L. 95 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
22.
Images for Piano, Set 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; France 
23.
Images for Piano, Set 2 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; France 
24.
Estampes (3) for Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  John Browning (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 John Browning – A Cosmopolitan American Pianist October 24, 2017 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "Beginning in the 19th Century, three traditions, or “schools”, dominated piano performance: The German school, which traced its roots to Beethoven; the Russian school, which was founded by Anton Rubinstein; and the French school, which came into being at the end of that century. In the years following World War II, an American school of pianism began to emerge, which fused elements of the German and Russian schools – although many American pianists also played music of the French Impressionists. Examples of the American school included William Kapell, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, and John Browning. Of these four, Fleisher hewed more toward the Germanic end of the scale, Kapell and Graffman to the Russian, while Browning was the most quintessentially American - particularly in terms of repertoire, as he championed the music of Samuel Barber – and perhaps the most cosmopolitan overall. This 12 CD set from Sony includes all of Browning’s recordings for RCA Red Seal and his one recording for Columbia Masterworks, recorded from 1964-1996. The two recordings of Barber’s Piano Concerto make for fascinating comparison. The early version, with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, begins with a virtual “crack of creation” and grabs the listener by the throat from beginning to end. The later one seems more interested in enjoying the journey, pointing out interesting views. It goes without saying that the sound quality in the later recording is fuller bodied and more dimensional – and the St. Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin are in excellent form throughout. Browning’s take on Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations is technically flawless and tonally gorgeous. Yet I miss the characterization that Rudolf Serkin, among others, brought to the piece, which develops a rather clumsy waltz by Anton Diabelli into a monumental edifice. There’s no lack of characterization in Browning’s rendition of the Sonata, Op. 110. The pianist vividly contrasts the more meditative and extroverted sections of the opening movement, while the second movement is boldly projected. In the slow movement, Browning’s ruminative pacing brings to mind Schnabel’s comment about the spaces between the notes, while the fugue is presented with structural and pianistic clarity. The Beethoven Triple Concerto adds Pinchas Zukerman and Ralph Kirshbaum to the mix. There’s a lovely sense of cohesiveness to this performance, almost chamber music with orchestral accompaniment, which is often missing from performances by “star” soloists. The London Symphony under Eschenbach provides a fine accompaniment. Browning gives a straightforward, technically formidable rendition of Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes. His pedaling and phrasing of certain parts, like the march in variation three, are just so right. Incidentally, while Browning doesn’t play any of the posthumously published variations, he plays the extended sections of the Finale which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Chopin would likely been aghast to learn there are multiple pianists who perform all of his Etudes in the space of one concert, and of course recordings didn’t exist during his era. Browning tackles these pieces with flawless technique and responsible sense of flair, never making an interpretive misstep. The E major, Op. 10, No. 3, has a lovely, unforced poetry. There are certain Etudes where I would have preferred a more individual stamp – such as the Revolutionary which, for all the clarity in the left hand runs, sounds rather perfunctory. But that’s a minor quibble and this set ranks with the best. The Tchaikovsky Concerto starts promisingly but soon heads downhill. Browning’s delivery of the famous octaves in the opening movement is so clear and even as to sound faster than they are. But jarring tempo changes in the finale wreck inner continuity and dilute the tension that leads to the coda. There’s really nothing special about the Ozawa’s accompaniment with the London Symphony. With the Prokofiev Concertos, we reach the peak of the set (along with the Barber). I’ve long since given up on the notion that any given recording of a classical work is “definitive” – particularly in oft recorded works. But Browning’s “rock ‘em, sock’em” rendition of the Second Concerto, which makes Ashkenazy sound tame and Bronfman sound tepid, is now my “go to” rendition of this work. The First Concerto likewise moves with gusto and flair, and plenty of poetry in the work's dreamy sections. By Browning's own admission, the Third was the only of Prokofiev’s Concertos that he knew well before he’d recorded the work. As with the Second Concerto, Browning employs a wide dynamic range and lavish colors, without overusing the sustaining pedal. His performance of the outer sections of the finale is among the most exciting I’ve ever heard. The main snag in this recording is an unnatural sound balance between piano and orchestra. Further, there appears to be quite a bit of dynamic alteration on the part of the engineers – with the opening clarinet solo glaringly loud, followed by a dynamic reduction which nullifies the orchestral crescendo. With so many Prokofiev Thirds on record, the sound issues prevent this from being a first choice. The Fourth Concerto (for the Left Hand alone) is another matter, with Browning’s clear, steely articulation putting Serkin’s to shame. The Fifth Concerto is a in a relatively lighter vein compared to its predecessors and Browning’s playing is a joy throughout. Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony prove to be superb collaborators throughout. Browning in joined by co-pianists Leonard Slatkin and Garrick Ohlsson for Barber’s Souvenirs and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, performances that are charming and evocative. Melissa Joan Hart introduces the Saint-Saëns but is otherwise unheard. I had no idea who she was until Googling her after hearing the recording, but this seems to have been an attempt to give the recording crossover appeal. But her introduction is so annoyingly written and performed, it’s best to just skip the track. Browning’s Ravel consistently emphasizes the modernity of each work. For once, the Sonatine is presented as an example of Sonata form, not a quaint student piece. In some ways, Browning’s take on Le Tombeau de Couperin seems as influenced by Couperin as by Ravel, with sparse pedaling in the faster movements. The prelude boasts some dazzlingly even passagework, and the final Toccata is taken at a breakneck pace that makes Cliburn seem lethargic. Browning pulls out all the stops for Gaspard de la Nuit. Some of the colors in Le Gibet are ravishing, nearly lurid, while the dexterity and “go for broke” passion in Scarbo is well into the Argerich class. This set includes nearly 100 minutes worth of Debussy recordings which have never been issued before: Pour le Piano, Images Books I and II, Estampes, and the Preludes Book II. It is not known precisely when or where they were recorded (from the sound quality, it sounds like a studio recording from the 1960s), and the Preludes are in mono. Despite the sonic limitations, Browning’s Preludes are lavishly colored, beautifully shaded, with the right balance of melody and inner voices. One of the most difficult aspects of piano technique is the ability to control multiple levels of pianissimo: soft, softer, softest. There are even well-known pianists who were unable to do so (no names, please). Browning is one of those who could, and it shows not just in the Preludes, but in the stereo Debussy items on the following disc. Not that all is quiet here, the Prelude and Toccata from Pour le piano are hallmarks of well-paced virtuosity. The set includes a perceptive essay by Jed Distler. With the exception of the last three discs, original cover art and liner notes are included. There’s been much talk over the past few years about CDs being replaced by streaming media – even as LPs enjoy a resurgence. I hope that Sony will continue to reissue their back catalogue onto CD. With the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Orchestra coming in 2018, a complete issue of Columbia’s and RCA’s recordings with that orchestra would be most welcome." Report Abuse
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