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4.7 out of 5 stars20
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2011
I don't know if there is another pianist who knows more about sensitive lyric beauty than Murray Perahia. The thoughtfulness that is always present in his work makes him one of the world's greatest pianists. Partnered with him on this disc is the famed Bernard Haitink, who leads the illustrious Concertgebouw. I have to say that our partners do a fabulous job pulling out the lyric beauty in these works. You'll probably never hear the Beethoven concertos given an account that is this sensitive again. Perahia and the Concertgebouw blend in a chamber-like way that brings out wonderful detail, but not in a way that sacrifices the "full orchestra" effect. The detail that is brought out is ravishing.

Having said this, Perahia's set is not one that reveals much of the masculine side of the great master. It wouldn't hurt to have more fire in these works. Some people will find the interpretation tame, complaining that he should have "let loose" more. But then again, others will be extremely sympathetic with his approach, as some experienced listeners point to this as their very favorite Beethoven concerti set. I'm somewhere in between, although I lean towards the second, more favorable group. I personally think Perahia is better with music that isn't so big and grand; his Bach sees him at his artistic height. Sometimes in the course of this set it becomes clear that Perahia isn't at his best with heroic material, as he occasionally sounds a bit harsh.

Still, I still find this to be a wonderful disc, one that I'm sure glad to have in my collection. I'm honestly very tempted to raise my rating to 5 stars as the lyricism that is present makes for a real treat. This is nostalgic Beethoven that will ravish the ears. Those who like performances that let the music speak for itself will find this disc very much to their liking. I certainly think this is a set very well worth checking out, especially if the positive aspects I mentioned sound inviting. I'm certainly going to want to turn to it now and then for the wonderful qualities it has to offer.
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on 29 March 2010
I find this collection of the five Beethoven piano concertos totally satisfying: excellent performances from both the pianist and the orchestra, well recorded with a natural and detailed sound. I have two more sets of the Beethoven piano concertos: Maurizio Pollini with the Berliner Philharmoniker directed by Claudio Abbado (recorded live), and Wilhelm Kempff with the Berliner Philharmoniker directed by Ferdinand Leitner, both on DG. Very difficult to say which one is the best. But I think my favorite one is the Kempff-Leitner set, by a very small gap with respect to Pollini-Abbado and this Perahia-Haitink.

I have just one complaint about the packaging of this triple CD. The digipac (plastic and cardboard) is nice (even if cheap) but I find very annoying that no booklet is provided. There are the track listing plus place and date of recordings printed on the packaging and nothing more! Not even time length of each track! Surely the price is low, but someone buying physical CD (and not digital downloads) is used to have always such additional information. So, five stars to the music, two stars to the CD packaging.
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on 25 November 2010
Beethoven's Five Piano Concertos are in the hands of master-performers here and I found listening to this set a very inspiring and hugely enjoyable experience. Perahia's playing is as brilliant and intensely musical as ever and the instrument he performs on sounds first class, with a gloriously rich tone. Haitink, as usual, is a very sensitive accompanist as conductor of the Concertgebouw, whose playing is superb throughout. This must rank alongside the very best of recorded performances of these vital works in Beethoven's output.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 August 2011
As you would expect, Perahia plays beautifully in these recordings, but occasionally I miss the sense of drama and grandeur so essential in Beethoven. Perahia's approach works best in the 4th Concerto, which is given one of its best performances here. Warmly lyrical, with a beautiful interplay with the excellent Concertgebouw. The first movement especially is an unqualified success - I don't think I've ever heard it so poetically played. Maybe the second movement could be a bit more dramatic and the finale more energetic, but overall this is one of the finest recordings of the work I've heard.

Elsewhere, Perahia's playing, while always beautiful, is just a bit too plain for my tastes. The 2nd Concerto, for example, lacks the youthful energy that Kovacevich brings, or Brendel's humour. The 3rd Concerto is appropriately dark, but here again Kovacevich is more fiery in the outer movements and poetic in the slow movement. The only relative disappointment is the Emperor Concerto, which is a bit bland compared to the majesty, grandeur and energy other pianists bring, from Gilels in his splendid recording with Ludwig to Arrau and, of course, the young Kovacevich.

Ultimately, it depends what kind of Beethoven you prefer. For a Classical interpretation that emphasises the music's Haydnesque traits Perahia is your man. But if you want more energy and contrast, I'd point you towards the Kovacevich/Davis cycle.
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on 12 December 2007
A superb collection of Beethoven's piano concertos. As usual, Murray Perahia's playing is as near perfection as you can get. His interpretation of these concertos displays the breadth of his talents. The quality of the recordings is also excellent.
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on 29 August 2012
Beethoven was a master of music. Every thing he wrote sounds vibrant, powerful, melodic, and engages the attention fully. Murray Perahia and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink collaborate to do justice to him very effectively on this boxed set of the complete piano concerti.
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on 27 October 2012
I love this set. Of course he's very well known but somehow Perahia isn't appreciated as the superstar he is. Haitink and the band are also excellent. I haven't heard a better version, and exquisite moments like the link between the slow and final movements of the No 5 are perfection in sound.
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on 19 July 2011
No serious quibble with other reviewers of this magnificent 3-CD set.

It is just that the set I bought, from one of the more noted larger sellers (new and sealed) freezes momentarily on several places; concerto No. 4 among other. I have encountered remarks on this phenomena from other users of this set, on the internet too.

This is no reflection on the playing or the recording, assumed to be made by no other than the Decca team of engineers, who also made several other recordings with the Concertgebouw during those years (the recordings dates from 1983 to 1986); the clarity of this "Sony-recording" is obviously the trade-hallmarks of Sony DSD processing and of Decca - considering that Sony did not had recording team on location there, and actually did not had recording team at any location of their other "Sony" CDs issues.
Sonically, this digital recording might just render other efforts at recording of the Beethoven Piano concertos works obsolete (with the exception of RCA's Emanuel Ax/Royal Philharmonic/Previn recording).

Still, overall there seams to be some sort of slight "reduction" to the total sound and specially to the piano tone, though, make no mistake; this recording possesses sort of "effortless sweetness" accompanied by a wide range frequency response rarely manifested (Wide Frequency Range can exist while dynamic compression is applied; compression has to do more with hindrance to the sound from getting louder and blooming at full-tilt; think of an SPL limiter applied to the processing if you haven't experienced this or if you don't understand the concept...)
Also, there is a slight reduction in roundness and warmth of tone and a bit of reduction in 3-D to this recordings.

Some will also feel that dynamic contrasts all along the reading are subdued in favor of technical purity in playing; one has to take a listen to the Ashkenazy/Mehta/VPO - specially Concerto 4,5, to see what's missing here, (both 4 & 5 with Ashkenazy has slightly better outlook on the orchestra - not that far away from the microphones - or one should seek out the Radu Lupu/Mehta/IPO - where concerto 4,5, are played in such depth which is soul-searching - the No.4 mainly, or one has to study Claudio Arrau mastery captured with the same Concertgebouw and with the same conductor, Haitink.
(The DGG/Kempf recording is technically-sonically inferior to some of those examples mentioned above, yet one of the qualities of the Kempf recording is that it was not recorded at the presently Berlin Philharmonic hall...)
All of the examples mentioned above are slightly better in pronouncing the "grandeur" brought, specially, to the Emperor concerto.
Listening to this Perahia Sony set, one finds himself eager to go back to the old masters (real power-house-horses), Solomon, Backhaus, Radu Lupu, Schnabel and Wuehrer...

The scanty notes on the this Sony set covers do not give credit to any recording engineer and do not boast about Sony processing, meaning they lay no claims for the source of the digital tape or the engineering.

So, a word of caution is in order here:
Do not be surprised if you get a rotten lemon that will freeze on few spots along the listening.
Most of these rotten lemons are sold by big outlets that gets priority price for buying larger stocks which will include defective series.
My copy bought from a Guernsey based outlet has to be sent back for refund - and with all the hustle involved...
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on 5 October 2015
What can I say? The pearl quality of Perahia with Haitink's control of the Concertgebouw and put togetheos awesome.. I love Argerich and Abbado, Kempff, Arrau....but this SO good. Robin
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on 10 September 2010
Murray Perahia playing with Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw. With that line-up, what could you criticize? Well, nothing really. With consistently beautiful playing and well-recorded sound, if you had to settle for one version this would be as good as any.
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