Pno Cto 1: Live (Rm)
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by Glenn Gould
Here it is at last! One of the most famous performances from the mid-20th century - the contested Glenn Gould/Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic interpretation of the Brahms Piano concerto No. 1. with this release, Sony Classical makes available the superbly remastered live performance. The sound is so stunning, you will imagine yourself in the audience of Carnegie Hall in April of '62, anticipating the entrance of the 2 youthful and charismatic classical superstars.
Newly remastered from a Voice of America mono off-line aircheck, one hears more detail and ambiance here than in previous reissues of this controversial performance taped live at Carnegie Hall April 6th, 1962. The conductor's infamous "disclaimer" disassociating himself from Glenn Gould's slow tempi is preserved along with a snippet from an interview in which Gould defends both his interpretation and Bernstein's actions. The first movement starts slow, but insidiously speeds up to a tempo not far from the norm. Flickering in and out of Bernstein's turgid orchestral backdrop, Gould downplays the music's fiery intensity, seeking to emphasize its meditative qualities and contrapuntal implications. If Sony wanted to issue a Gould Brahms D- Minor, why not the more incisive, and far better-engineered October 1962 Baltimore version? --Jed Distler
Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, this concert was assaulted by the audience coughing almost permanently. After a few minutes it just gets unbearable to listen to the music. I wonder what was going on in there. It seams almost like a bad joke but, joke or not, it spoils everything.
Very impressive are the two comments, one at the beginning by Mr. Bernstein directed to the audience, and one at the end by Gould in a private interview, both referring to that specific interpretation.
Although, before the performance, Bernstein comments on 'who is the boss' problem in concerto performance, Gould has no interest in dazzling display of piano part. Neither the conductor nor the pianist is the boss here, but the symphonic grandeur of the music itself takes centre stage. It almost sounds like Bruckner symphony with added piano part. The effect is curiously thrilling and deeply romantic as architectural beauty and subtlety of the piano part are more vividly captured in unusually slow tempo. I've never come across more delicate playing of the slow movement since I listen to Fleisher's magical account.
The most unfortunate thing about this recording is the disgraceful audience on their coughing campaign throughout 1st movement. They apparently did not heed what Bernstein said before the performance. They are the miserable narrow-minded kind who believes composer's markings are holy doctrine and denies any other possibilities of interpretations. This recording is a monument to remarkable open-mindedness of the conductor and bravery of the artist as well as a testimony to disgusting conservatism of classical music world in general.
As to the actuality, there are three aspects on which to comment: a. The interpretation b. the introductory comments by Bernstein and c. the recording.
The recording can be dealt with quickly. It is not good, not only because of the audience 'participation' which is irritating, but the performers themselves are not caught all that well. So, you will buy this because you are interested in a and b. Otherwise do not.
Critics and the public tore themselves apart as whether or not Bernstein should have made an introductory 'disclaimer', but Glenn Gould himself is clear in his support. Certainly, on a broad front, I wouldn't want to go to a concert and hear intercessions by the conductor regularly - I once went to a performance in San Antonio of Mahler's Ninth where the audience was treated to a ten minute history lesson by the conductor and then instructions on how to behave 'in Mahler's presence'. But I think Bernstein's remarks, which are eloquently and briefly expressed, sit well given the close relationship for and admiration of Gould which he clearly had and we're fortunate they were actually recorded, so no-one can say they didn't understand what went on behind the scenes.
The performance itself remains open to debate and I have no knowledge of Gould's 'discoveries' which led to his approach here. I would be interested to know if these were in any way connected with Brahms's intentions.Read more ›
The sound quality is indeed pretty bad in places (rather like a poor transfer of an old 78 recording). Though not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I can't imagine where they placed the microphones, presumably right at the back of the auditorium (or possibly in the bar judging by the amount of audience movement, not to mention an almost constant cacophony of coughing).
I can understand that the tempos caused a few raised eyebrows at the time, though none are really so extreme. The first movement in particular is quite slow but full of passion. If Bernstein disagreed with the interpretation then it doesn't show in the orchestral passions around. In fact the speed allows all sorts of orchetral lines and textures to be brought out that are usually obscured.
On the whole a recording worth listening to (if only for the historical value) and worth getting a copy of, though don't expect a digital or remastered quality transfer!
Gould (as usual) sings his way through the performance - and can be clearly heard throughout - no mean feat with the volume of the orchestra. Good on yer!