The five stars are for the Beethoven 2nd Concerto, which is a performance of unique sympathy (with the music) and élan. Gould reveals much that other performers do not, but without any eccentricity. There is an exuberance, fluency and sense of enjoyment in the outer movements, and a purity in the second, which put Gould "up there" with the finest few performers of this piece (e.g. Schnabel and Argerich). The sound is entirely satisfactory. Typical of Gould is the way in which the 1st movt cadenza sounds (as it should do: it was composed much later) stylistically entirely different from the body of the movement, with the illusion of the performer improvising it, feeling his way through it, and the trembling bass at its close seeming to reveal the world of the late sonatas or the Diabelli variations. Spellbinding.
By contrast, the Brahms is interesting, as Gould's Brahms performances always were, not revelatory, as his Brahms playing could sometimes be (for example a number of the pieces on the 1960 CBS/Sony recital of late Brahms pieces are outstanding in beauty and insight.) The Quintet is already disadvantaged by dull and uninviting sound-quality here, and it is difficult to know how much that makes it harder to appreciate the performance. Gould's playing is often "straight" to the point of seeming unyielding (and one feels that his fine string colleagues would like more in terms of "give" and breathing, a touch of rubato here and there, but it seems that Gould is scarcely inclined in that direction at all.) The unusually swift and light rendition of the slow movement is definitely of interest.
This disc is most strongly recommended for the wonderful Beethoven alone. Naxos needed a coupling, and the Brahms performance is interesting enough to justify its issue. I will be listening to Curzon with the Amadeus, though, or others, when I wish to hear the Brahms Quintet.
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