Brendel realizes the solo part of the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with a weightiness of tone and the shrewdness of page after page of musical detailing.
...[T]here can be little doubt that it is the orchestra—as ever, peerless in Brahms—that gives this recording its distinctive character. It provides exactly the right fully-fledged symphonic context for Brendel. It also inspires him to realize the solo part with a weightiness of tone and concentration of line that hasn't always been there to complement the natural clarity of his Brahms. Thus, though individual movement timings are virtually identical with those on Brendel's earlier 1973 Amsterdam version on Philips, the scale and musical reach of the performance isRead more considerably extended, as, indeed, is the shrewdness of page after page of musical detailing.
Abbado, too, now takes a shrewder view of the music than he did in 1977 when he recorded the concerto with Pollini in Vienna for DG. No movement suffers more from bland conducting than the miraculous finale. (''We have done our work, let the children play in the world which our work has made safer and happier for them'', as Tovey puts it.) The great representative recording here—seemingly forgotten by DG—was made in Berlin in 1960 by Geza Anda under Ferenc Fricsay's matchlessly idiomatic direction (6/61—nla). This version, it has to be said, is almost in the same league.
-- Richard Osborne,, Gramophone [6/1992] Read less
Definative Work From Brendel, as Usual!July 16, 2014By Tony Engleton See All My Reviews"07-16-2014 I first heard Alfred Brendel back in 1973 or 74, playing with the Chicago Symphony, doing the Liszt Piano Concerto #2. I'd heard him on the local Classical radio station, WFMT-FM, the best station then, as now. This was my 4th or 5thcocerto n I had attended and I was just beginning to collect records, so I bought his Brahms 2nd with Haitink, recorded 1969, on a Philips LP. I still own it, but the concerto has since been transferred to CD and into a twin-pack along with Concerto #1, again which I currently own. This recording features the equally fine Claudio Abbado and his berlin Philharmonic, as Music Director before he was hit with stomach cancer, which sadly, took him from us, much too soon. He will be missed. But, happily Brendel is still alive, though "retired," and this recording, made in September 1991 is from 1991, 22 years later. The newer reading comes in about 30 seconds faster than back in the 60's, but they are so similar, one could not really tell. Both are accompanied by great orchestra/conductor teams and both on Philips with fine sound, which is to always be expected. Since there's no real need for particular comparisons, I will attempt to be brief. This concerto is unique in that it is comprised of 4, not the usual 3 movements, with each section closer in elapsed times than a long opening movement, a medium length central Adagio and then a wild, peppy rhythmic finale of the shortest duration. That's sort of the layout we hear in the composer's b-minor #1, from his fiery youth. To be sure, both #1 and #2 are masterpieces---no doubt!! But, there are some significant differences. The 1st Concerto is more confrontational and dramatic, filled with passion, and containing a "love-letter" Adagio, presumably to the new widow, Clara Schumann, to whom he remained the dearest of friends for the rest of their lives. Johannes died in 1897, Clara in 1896.( As Brahms approached the church were Bruckner was laid out in 1896, the composer was asked to come in and pay his respects. His reply was something like, "never mind, soon MY coffin." And, perhaps like Mahler in 1911, Brahms, having suffered his beloved Clara's passing, he too may have died of a broken heart, in the next year, unable or unwilling to go on without her. ) So, if the First Concerto is confrontational, the Second is quite conversational and I believe a simple listening will bare that out. the chatter between the soloist and Orchestra is lively, sincere, serene, tender and inventive. In a sense, it is as high a quality as Mozart or Beethoven, for that matter, and epitomizes the concept and definition of the term "concerto." These principals are things that both Abbado and Brendel understand totally, and their execution is flawless, perfect and ultra precise. The sheer beauty of the 3rd movement Andante is breathtaking in it's poignancy and fragility, why one hardly dares to cough so as to not disturb the performers concentration, even though we're in our home living rooms, and not a live concert hall. I would drive the 375 miles from my home to Seattle to hear Brendel and the Symphony play this gorgeous work, full of a richness of melody and an overflowing of romanticism, that few concerti possess. AND, few performers understand, like Alfred Brendel does. Sample, for instance, the extended passage from about the 06:30 point to the movement's end at 12:15, and see if you don't agree this is some of the finest, most delicately crafted music in the entire literature, regardless of the category. Brendel begins as if it were a hushed cadenza, and is joined by solo clarinet, then the other wind for a period of time, before a few murmuring strings creep in ever so carefully to add a foundation. Most of this rapturous music features the piano and those clarinets as it flows along and ever so gradually picks up momentum and volume while moving slowly to the and of the movement. I couldn't stop it, and had to listen up to the very end, at 12:15. It was like sampling my wife's apple pie and saying, "I'll only try a teaspoon," yeah----right! I could no more do that then listen only to little Brahms, he too, is just too delicious. In closing, might I say that this music is played as though it were the last thing either of these great artists were to do while still alive. It is as though THIS is how they would wish to be remembered, but the thing is, they've done so many other "memorable" things, that this Philips recording is only but 1 single example. there is also, recorded I believe a year apart, the first Concerto with these same gentlemen performing. is it to be Brendel's last reading of both works? I hope not, but we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Run, don't walk, to your nearest record store or web page and buy this marvelous rendition, and play it over and over again and let it enter your heart and soul with it's sheer brilliance and beauty. You won't regret it a bit!! Happy listening and God bless you all, Tony. AMDG!"Report Abuse