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Beware - there are some SONY rotten lemons out there of this magnificent recording
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...