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Beethoven: Triple Concerto / Brahms: Double Concerto - EMI Masters [CD]

Ludwig van Beethoven, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan Audio CD
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Beethoven: Triple Concerto / Brahms: Double Concerto - EMI Masters + Beethoven: Complete Music for Cello & Piano
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Product details

  • Audio CD (13 Feb 2012)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B006LL02JG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,501 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. I. Allegro
2. II. Largo
3. III. Rondo all polacca
4. I. Allegro
5. II. Andante
6. III. Vivace non troppo

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven's Triple Concerto 23 Feb 2014
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
a combination of three of the greatest musicians ever combine to give a scintillating performance of this infrequently heard work by Beethoven. A superb disc in every way
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Beethoven with the bonus of an excellent Brahms 3 May 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Sometimes, maybe once in a decade, maybe once in a lifetime, a confluence of great solo artists, a great conductor, and a great orchestra produces a genuinely instant classic. Such was the case when violinist David Oistrakh, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and pianist Sviatoslav Richter performed Beethoven's Triple Concerto in 1969 with Maestro Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. It's hard to imagine this performance of the Triple Concerto ever being topped, given of the sheer magnitude of the talent involved. What's more, it continues to be one of the best-recorded versions of the music you'll find, and this EMI disc even couples it with an excellent Brahms Double Concerto.

In the Triple Concerto the Berlin Philharmonic sounds, as always, magnificent, and Karajan avoids glamorizing or over-romanticizing the score. When the cello, the violin, and then the piano make their entrance in the first movement, we see immediately this going to be a gentle, relaxed reading, with no want of beauty or expression. The performance is responsive and spacious, yet we can still appreciate the full force of the great orchestra making itself known, reminding us that no matter how easygoing the interpretation may be, it's still an interpretation on the grandest scale. You're not going to get this kind of sound from a chamber ensemble or a period-instruments group.

As to the soloists, remarkably, they play as though they had worked together for years. None of the three men attempts to upstage the others, and their instruments complement one another perfectly, almost producing three variations of the same instrument (or four if you count the orchestra, which also blends in flawlessly). Naturally, the cello most often takes the lead, yet Rostropovich never actually dominates; it's a genuinely shared experience.

This particular issue, by the way, appears to be identical to EMI's earlier "Great Recordings of the Century" release.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine versions, although they were bettered (interpretively if not sonically) by Oistrakh's earlier EMI recordings 22 Dec 2010
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Although these two recordings were never meant as companions (unlike the Brahms violin concerto recorded by Oistrakh with Szell three days after the Double Concerto, respectively 12-13 and 16 May, 1969, Brahms: Violin Concerto / Violin Sonata No. 3), the pairing is logical. The two compositions are usual and logical bedfellows on disc because of their unusual array of soloists, the soloists here are shared (with the addition of Richter in Beethoven's triple concerto) and the Beethoven was recorded only a few months after the Brahms, on 15-17 September 1969. They are also excellent versions, although Oistrakh's earlier recordings of both compositions for EMI (Beethoven in 1959 with his usual trio partners of those years Lev Oborin and Stanislav Knushevitzky under Malcolm Sargent, Brahms in 1956 with Pierre Fournier under Alceo Galliera, both with the Philharmonia), while not on a par sonically, were even better interpretively: Triple Violin Concerto.

The highly controversial English music critic Norman Lebrecht has given pride of place (so to speak) to Karajan's Triple Concerto in his list of "The 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made" - and it is pure crap, based on gossiping rather than listening, and apparently motivated by his general hatred of Karajan rather than by any fair hearing of the recording (see my review of Lebrecht's book for more, The Life and Death of Classical Music: Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made). Karajan and his Soviet dream team expound an expansive and lyrical view (which doesn't preclude vigor in the tutti and playfulness in the interplay between the soloists), unfolding very naturally, almost nonchalantly at times in the first movement, and with a fine mood of playfulness in the finale. I'm usually a staunch advocate of flowing tempos in Beethoven's "slow" movements (alhtough, here, it is indeed a "Largo" and not the customary "Andante"), but in this instance I must lay down all arms in front of Karajan: here, his time-suspended tempo(and the soloist's ability to sustain it) is ineffably beautiful. I could fault Karajan and the sonics on a few details (wayward, unstable tempo in the first bars; a certain lack of crispness in the strings: Karajan doesn't always seem to think that a staccato mark should be played staccato; the extremes - basses and sometimes horns and oboes - are covered in the tutti, which is inherent to the fact that the body of strings is basically too large for Beethoven's scoring; the string tutti sound too thick and distant in relation to the soloists in the finale, they sound as if Karajan thought he was recording a Symphony; in that respect, recent versions, like Harnoncourt's, Beethoven: Triple Concerto; Rondo in B flat; Choral Fantasy, achieve a much better balance; but then, there aren't so many tuttis in the finale), and those details would make me give preference to the 1959 recording (Oborin and Knushevitzky have little to envy from Richter and Rostropovich in terms of technical authority and interpretive imagination, and Oistrakh's tone is even more beautiful than in 1969) if its sonics had been comparable. But it has significant tape hiss and the soloists aren't as clearly and brilliantly recorded as in 1969. Anyway these small blemishes do not diminish the value of this later version, that lies on its stellar soloists even more than on its conductor (and credits to the conductor anyway for the sublime Largo): not that other approaches, more urgent, can't be conceived, but it is truly, in its own style, a classic.

It is fascinating to follow the artistic development of Oistrakh through his successive recordings of Brahms' double concerto. It confirms the general rule (but not an absolute one: Toscanini and Heifetz are notable exceptions) that performers mellow and pace down as they age. I haven't heard Oistrakh's 1946 (some sources say 1947) recording with Milos Sadlo and the Prague Radio Orchestra under Karel Ancerl, but I have his second studio recording, with Knushevitzky and the Leningrad Radio Orchestra under Karl Eliasberg, which discographic sources date from 1948 (although on my French Chant du Monde CD, volume 12 of their David Oistrakh Edition released in the late 1980s and listed nowhere, it sounds much better than what you'd expect of a Soviet recording from that vintage - see my review of David Oistrakh Plays Doubles for more details on that dating issue). While already displaying Oistrakh's unique lyricism, it is also faster than his subsequent studio recordings, and (thanks also to Eliasberg whipping his orchestra to great intensity), it is also more fiery, almost Heifetzian even, with an undertone of unrest and inquietude in the central andante. The 1956 recording with Galliera has more of a classical poise, Galliera goes slightly more for power and grandeur rather than bite and drive (which doesn't mean that it is dispassionate in any way), and the andante, taken at a very held-back tempo, is imbued with a uniquely tender lyricism.

Szell is even more expansive in the outer movements (compare his first movement 16:43 to Galliera's 16:04 and Eliasberg's 15:10) , but he avoids any impression of sluggishness thanks to the great mass and power of his orchestral outbursts, and the bite of his accents and staccato. Still, despite the 1956 early stereo with limited spread and significant tape hiss (especially when you crank up the volume), I would give the edge to the earlier version.

The 1969 recording isn't ideal either; it was the first recording made by the EMI engineers of the Cleveland Orchestra, and the orchestra doesn't have the clarity and transparency you'd expect of a 1969 recording, with even a hard edge in the tutti. There is also a thickness and lack of bounce of those tutti in the finale (try at 1:00), but that must be ascribed to Szell rather than to the sound engineer, and in that finale one may prefer Galliera's marginally stronger drive and bite. As recorded in 1969, Oistrakh doesn't quite reproduce either the angelic beauty and sweetness of tone of his former 1956 self. For all Oistrakh's and Rostropovich's involvement, there are some spots in the first movement where one also feels them tempted to over-express. But it is especially in the andante that Szell and his soloists fail to entirely recapture the special magic of the 1956 version.

Needless to say, all these remarks are only comparative. This is an outstanding version in its own right, and a safe recommendation for those who might be bothered by the more rustic stereo and pronounced tape hiss of the 1956 recording. But those who have never heard the 1956 Brahms andante must know that they will have missed something.
5.0 out of 5 stars Significantly improved remastering of masterly performnces 22 Jun 2013
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This disc, coupling two recordings made in 1969, offers a significant improvement in sound over the previous issues. The sound-stage has deepened and the whole impact has greater 'presence' than before. The bass and midrange of the triple concerto is more defined adding more strength and less blended effect to Karajan's accompaniment which is a clear benefit. Szell's accompaniment to the Brahms is far more dominant in character and similar to that he provided for both Fleisher and Curzon in the Brahms piano concerto 1 recordings. This will not be surprising to those who know other recordings by Szell.

As performances, both of these recordings are great enough to be genuinely included in the previous listing of Great Recordings of the Century. That version is still available. The Beethoven in particular has all the benefits and none of the possible disadvantages of putting together such a starry and high profile cast and hoping for inspiration to strike. On this occasion this performance has moved into the 'definitive' category for many collectors.

The Brahms is a more forthright performance as a result of the change of conductor. The recording too is more forthright. This is a very energetic and virile performance. There are gentler ways of doing this work which some may prefer - an example on CD being that with Oistrakh and Fournier with Galliera on an EMI 'twofer' coupling which also includes an excellent earlier version of the Beethoven as well, although not so modern as a recording (good stereo from 1956-8). A favourite DVD of the Brahms, in excellent sound and vision, is available with Batiashvili and Mork with Rattle and the BPO coupled with Brahms 4 and the Parsifal overture of Wagner.

This current CD in its remastered form is certainly deserving of its high reputation and, as such, also deserves to be given serious consideration by potential purchasers looking for either an 'only' version of both works or as a comparative version.
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