Notes and Editorial Reviews
Critical consensus never ranked this 1959 Gary Graffman/Charles Munch Brahms D minor concerto on par with its reference 1950s and '60s competitors (Fleisher/Szell, Serkin/Szell, Arrau/Giulini, Rubinstein/Reiner, and Katchen/Monteux), yet it's an exciting, inherently musical interpretation. You won't find Szell's gaunt, amazingly regimented orchestral image, Reiner's chamber-like dovetailing between winds and strings (the Rondo's fugato, for instance), Rubinstein's rounded, singing tone, Arrau's bottom-to-top technical finish, or the nuanced nervous energy with which Serkin and Fleisher hold your attention. Still, I can't think of any professional performer who wouldn't be glad to claim Graffman's tremendously solid, albeit simpler pianism.
Indeed, Graffman's sense of forward sweep and sustaining power within long, introspective passages score over what Van Cliburn halfheartedly delivered in his own recording with the Boston Symphony a few years later.
Call Munch's subito fortes and frequent encouragement of the brass raw or just plain unsubtle if you have to, but at least credit him for bringing out details that other recordings rarely reveal. At measure 192, for example, how often do you hear the marcato motive that passes between the two horns, the violas, the second violins, and first violins so clearly projected--or similarly, the detail at measure 345, when the horns take up the main theme underneath the piano soloist's descending triplet sequence in the recapitulation? Furthermore, Munch achieves this despite the dynamically constricted and inconsistently balanced engineering. Reissued through Arkivmusic.com's "on demand" program, this disc is well worth hearing.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15 by Johannes Brahms
Gary Graffman (Piano)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1854-1858; Germany
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