These recordings reissued on the Hänssler Profil label
feature the playing of eminent Leipzig born pianist Wilhelm
Backhaus (1884-1969). He was admired as a great Brahms interpreter
and the two piano concertos were mainstays of Backhaus’s
repertoire. He played them regularly throughout this career.
A real inspiration for Backhaus occurred in 1895 when aged ten
he met Brahms who was conducting a concert of his two piano
concertos with soloist Eugen d’Albert. Backhaus toured
extensively and left a considerable legacy of recordings. These
accounts of the Brahms pianoRead more concertos were recorded by the
sixty-nine year old Backhaus in 1953 at the Grosser Musikvereinssaal
in Vienna. We are given the date of 1959 and the Vienna Festival
as the venue for the three live Haydn recordings for solo piano.
The re-mastering has been carried out by Holger Siedler at the
THS Studio in Dormagen, Germany. Over time my ears managed to
adjust to the fifty year old sound which certainly isn’t
perfect. It contains some distortion and considerable brightness
in the forte passages but is generally satisfactory for its
age. An improvement over the Brahms the sound quality of the
Haydn scores was well detailed and extremely agreeable.
Brahms commenced his three movement Piano Concerto No. 1
in 1854 around the time of the suicide attempt by his friend
and mentor Robert Schumann. I was impressed with the sheer dramatic
sweep of Backhaus’s playing. Demonstrating considerable
power and passion in the outside movements Backhaus conveys
a heartbreaking feeling in the Adagio playing with a
blend of poetry and tenderness. I felt an authentic sense of
drama in the stormy Rondo -Finale. It was some
twenty-four years later when Brahms commenced his PianoConcerto No. 2. Cast in four movements it was completed
in 1881. In this 1953 interpretation Backhaus combines grandeur
with telling sensitivity. I loved the bravura ending of the
towering opening movement and the fire and drama of the Scherzo.
Opening with a glorious cello melody the heart of the work is
the reverential Andante with Backhaus laying bare a calm
and haunting introspection. I enjoyed the exuberant and energetic
playing in the Finale with uplifting urgency well to
the fore. Across both concertos the playing of the orchestra
offers sensitive support.
These performances are most impressive with a distinct sense
of effortless virtuosity. However, my benchmark recordings of
these Brahms concertos remain those from soloists Leon Fleisher
and Emil Gilels. Best of all is Fleisher’s commanding
and highly dramatic accounts with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra
under Georg Szell pleasingly recorded in 1958 and 1962 at Cleveland’s
Severance Hall on Sony Classical ‘Masterworks Heritage’
MH2K 63225. Gilels accounts are strong, poetic and thoughtful.
They were made with the Berlin Philharmonic under Eugen Jochum
and were extremely well recorded in 1972 at the Jesus Christ
Church, Berlin on Deutsche Grammophon 447 446-2.
The three Haydn scores, recorded live in concert, make for appealing
listening. The first score is the Andante con Variazioni
in F minor from 1793 and was possibly intended as the first
movement of a sonata. It was later renamed as Sonata
- Un piccolo Divertimento. Generally regarded as Haydn’s
greatest piano work for piano the Andante con variazioni
is seen as a highpoint of his entire output. In 1789 Haydn wrote
to his publisher about his Fantasia ‘Capriccio’in
C major, “In a moment of most excellent good humour
I have written a quite new Capriccio for the pianoforte whose
tastefulness, singularity and special construction cannot fail
to win applause from connoisseurs and amateurs alike.”
Completed in 1794 Haydn’s Sonata No. 52 was his
final piano sonata and is often acknowledged as his finest in
the genre.The score was composed for Therese Jansen,
a leading London pianist. These performances are both lucid
and sensitive with light and shade adding to the allure. Declining
to inflate the emotions Backhaus follows a middle course that
really pays dividends.
-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15by Johannes Brahms Performer:
Wilhelm Backhaus (Piano)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1854-1858; Germany
Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15: I. Maestoso
Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15: II. Adagio
Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15: III. Rondo: Allegro non troppo
Keyboard Sonata in F minor, Hob.XVII:6, "Un piccolo divertimento: Variations": Keyboard Sonata in F minor, Hob. XVII:6, "Un piccolo divertimento: Variations"
Fantasia (Capriccio) in C major, Hob.XVII:4: Fantasia (Capriccio) in C major, Hob XVII:4
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83: I. Allegro non troppo
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83: II. Allegro appassionato
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83: III. Andante
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83: IV. Allegretto grazioso
Keyboard Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:52: I. Allegro
Keyboard Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:52: II. Adagio
Keyboard Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:52: III. Presto
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Fine CDs of these worksSeptember 23, 2012By Brian S. (SWAY LYMINGTON, Hampshire)See All My Reviews"These are very enjoyable performances of these works. One quibble : Karl Bohm was the conductor of Brahms piano Concerto No 1 recording originally issued on Decca LXT 5364 . A good buy."Report Abuse
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