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4.7 out of 5 stars30
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 28 October 2012
This is a very strange, but mesmerising, performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto. It is as if the performers had never heard the piece before in their lives, and are therefore thinking their way through it and discovering it for themselves. Some of it is very slow, and the pauses (for emphasis, or simply reflecting on an especially beautiful phrase) sometimes seem exaggerated. Yet I found myself hanging on every note, simply because, instead of barnstorming their way on this weathered old war-horse, both conductor and soloist seem utterly determined to discover the inner meaning of the music. In other words, it is the thinking man's (and woman's!) performance.

But, as other reviewers have already noted, one really buys this disc for the incredible, committed performance of the Rachmaninov. The slow movement is 'to die for' and, although I possess other interpretations of this piece (including the excellent version by Ashkenazy), I am beginning to doubt whether I shall ever listen to them again. Richter here is at his very best: demonic and poetic by turns (compare his never-to-be bettered performances of the two Liszt concertos, with Kondrashin and the LSO); but his contribution is easily matched by that of the Warsaw Philharmonic under Wislocki, even though these are scarcely household names in this country. Even allowing for my reservations about the Tchaikovsky, I could not possibly rate this CD at less than 5 stars. Buy it *now*, before it disappears from the lists again, possibly for ever.
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on 22 May 2006
Richter was the great Russian secret who's fame grew to big for Russia to contain him. Listening to this recording makes one wonder if great artists like exist today. I purchased this disc by chance a number of years ago and I have to say, if like myself, you thought you very perfectly happy with your Ashkenazy / Rachmaninov no.2, then you really are missing out on a great deal by not owning this disc. If you are in any doubt then compare the final few minutes with your favorite recording and I guarantee (just like the first reviewers piano teacher) it will move you to tears. Anything else by comparison pails into insignificance. Incidentally, the Rachmaninov dates from 1959 and the Tchaikovsky from 1963 and the sound quality on both is first class. The Tchaikovsky is adequate, but buy it for the Rachmaninov.
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Ok these are rather old recordings but whilst they may not have the richness of modern productions they are perfectly acceptable. What you want is the pianism and in the Rachmaninov he is simply sublime. If you've heard other versions, and surely you will have, then this will open your eyes to a much deeper understanding of the music. It is a very moving performance.

I know others don't like the Tchaikovsky as much but I think it is a very interesting interpretation and well worth listening to.
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on 24 February 2013
I bought the cd most and for all for the second piano concerto of Rachmaninov. This was the first interpretation (recording) on vinyl record I had of the concerto and for me it still remains the best interpretation ever. All though Richter does not seem to be the most romantic, he gives an honest lecture of the score : romantic but not bombastic. A pitty, that the recording dates from 1959, where the circumstances for stereo recording were far from ideal, you can hear it in the orchestra part, where the dynamic is limited. But this is irrelevant to the wonderful interpretation of both parties (piano and orchestra).

The Tchaikovsky recording is one of the many : not bad, but not exceptional.

Nevertheless the combination of both pieces is extraordinary, having Richter's interpretation of two of the most important piano concertos of music literature..
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 October 2015
This now vintage is rightly considered legendary, but there are a few valid reasons for not assessing it a top choice, starting with the rather wiry, clattery sound, which emerges as somewhat congested even after a supposed remastering and remains rather hissy and distant compared with Byron Janis' recording of No. 2 on Mercury or Van Cliburn on RCA/Sony. Secondly, the Warsaw orchestra is not top rank: there are some sour, ill-tuned sounds from the woodwind and little sheen on strings which sometimes sound rather wavery. Thirdly, despite the attractiveness of the coupling - with superior conducting and orchestral playing from Karajan and the VSO - more people will want both of Rachmaninov's most popular piano concertos on one issue, rather than this pairing.

However, the contrast between the gung-ho aggression of the Polish recording and the comparative subtlety and refinement of the Vienna one makes for an interesting comparison. Richter is all strength, power and attack in the former, typically majestic and forceful, whereas he and Karajan are more restrained and lyrical in the Tchaikovsky, rather than opting for the usual "give-it-all-you've-got" approach; it is also recorded in somewhat better, richer sound than the Rachmaninov.

I cannot allow the reservations to influence the worth of both recordings; both are obviously five-star tours de force - and we need to be grateful for any studio recordings by Richter, given his later, increasing antipathy to the medium but it's not my first choice.
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on 30 March 2015
I think that Santa Fe Listener (on American amazon.com) is right on the money here with respect to both the quality of performances and the sound. In the Rachmaninov, the orchestra is put at a bit of a disadvantage by the engineers, but Richter is very much present, and you can hear everything, including his fingerwork in the passages where the orchestra is carrying the thematic freight. And though he's well to the fore in even the loudest passages, Richter is never making unmusical effects, and the variety of dynamics and the always-alive phrasing bespeak a marvelous touch. He'll never blow you away with sheer beauty of tone, like Rubinstein sometimes will, but the shaping of the lyrical phrases is something to marvel at, and he leads the ear along through even the most extreme transitional moments. Good modern accounts make one realize that the orchestral writing is lovely too -- Maazel does a great job with Gutteriez on Telarc -- and one wishes that Richter had that kind of backing. But still . . . you really have to hear this one.

I have a different take than Santa Fe Listener on the Tchaikovsky First -- as he says, the orchestra is better recorded, and Karajan is a definite positive presence throughout. I thought this was the wildest and wooliest Tchaikovsky First I had ever heard -- both pianist and orchestra run the gamut from the brutal to the tender, with everything in between, and yet you never feel that there's any lack of control or direction in the performance. It's just very exciting, and you almost are surprised that people aren't wildly applauding at the end, so much does it have the air of a live performance. To hear Richter play the first movement cadenza is almost worth the price of the disc -- it's simply riveting. One slight complaint about the sound (I was listening with headphones): early in the final movement, Richter seems artificially brought forward in the aural picture. The impression doesn't last long, but it was a bit surprising and distracting. Again, though -- this is a performance everyone should hear.
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on 11 June 2015
One of the great recordings in Western Europe from the giant Russian pianist from the 'east'.
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on 17 December 2015
Faultless performance.Sound is of its time, but nevertheless very good.
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on 27 May 2011
A golden oldie. Richter is a brilliant pianist and I love his slower tempo in the interpretation of these two concertos. The sound quality is excellent.
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on 5 October 2014
Love it, love it love it! can't stop playing it
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