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Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 & Violin Concerto - Schumann: Piano Quartet / Haitink, Royal Concertgebouw

Release Date: 03/17/2017 
Label:  Rco Live   Catalog #: 17001  
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsRobert Schumann
Performer:  Frank Peter ZimmermannGregor HorschVesko EschkenazyEmanuel Ax,   ... 
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Frank Peter Zimmermann may not play the warmest, most lyrically imbued Brahms Concerto in town, yet his straightforward (some might say brusque), unsentimental, and technically imposing conception lends itself well to the music’s classically-oriented style and cross-rhythmic exploration. He’s not one to linger or bask in tonal effects for their own sake, and collectors familiar with his out-of-print Brahms Concerto collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic and Wolfgang Sawallisch won’t find any surprises, nor anything markedly superior throughout the live 2010 Concertgebouw performance occupying the first of two discs.

Bernard Haitink provides a robust yet animated and well-balanced orchestral framework, in which the
Read more Concertgebouw forces play as beautifully as one should expect. However, Haitink’s two studio recordings of this work represent better recorded and more incisively integrated collaborations with soloists, especially the version with the Concertgebouw’s legendary one-time concertmaster Hermann Krebbers. Zimmermann, by the way, plays Joseph Joachim’s first-movement cadenza.

Disc 2 showcases pianist Emanuel Ax in the Brahms D minor concerto and the Schumann Piano Quartet, two works that have been in his repertoire for decades. His fervent commitment and all-encompassing technique have remained remarkably consistent since he recorded the concerto with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony in the early 1980s. If the latter’s close-up sonic perspective yields strident results at times, the ample low strings and pungent brass make a visceral impact absent from the more distantly-blended engineering in this live 2010 Concertgebouw performance. For his part, Haitink’s orchestral support conveys more character from both massed tuttis and first-desk soloists compared to his earlier studio versions with Claudio Arrau and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat doesn’t match his better known Quintet for memorable tunes, yet many musicians dote upon the music’s imaginative ensemble interaction and harmonic ideas. Here Ax’s shapely and superbly characterized way with the piano part is a joy to behold, as it was in his two earlier studio recordings. The relatively dry, close-up sound of the 1980s version with members of the Cleveland Quartet did not always flatter the strings in fast passages, while the Sony recording with Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Jaime Laredo, and Isaac Stern betrays the latter’s occasionally wan tone and squeezed intonation. That leaves the pianist’s 2016 collaboration with three distinguished RCO Chamber Soloists as the most sensitively honed and instrumentally integrated of the three. Again, no surprises, but no disappointments whatsoever concerning this release.

– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler) Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Frank Peter Zimmermann (Violin)
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 
Quartet for Piano and Strings in E flat major, Op. 47 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Gregor Horsch (Cello), Vesko Eschkenazy (Violin), Emanuel Ax (Piano),
Henk Rubingh (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Germany 
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1858; Germany 

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