Brahms: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
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Brahms: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
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The circumstances surrounding this April 6, 1962 concert at Carnegie Hall are as legendary as the performance itself. Pianist Gould desired to play the piece at a slower-than-usual tempo, Bernstein (who was conducting the New York Philharmonic) did not. Gould prevailed, but Bernstein shared his disavowal in an infamous pre-concert speech to the audience. This CD-the concert recording's first authorized release-includes Bernstein's speech, the complete performance and a revealing Glen Gould interview recorded two years later.
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 DistlerSee all Editorial Reviews
by Glenn Gould
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It's a most interesting, well thought-out, well-played live performance by two important figures (and a major orchestra in top form) of '50s and '60s American concert music. Not to mention an attentive audience that doesn't cough *too* much.
Bernstein's pre-performance disclaimer and the interview with Glenn Gould are a real plus.
The only downside to the CD is that it's a broadcast recording from the '60s and, as such, the sound quality isn't up to current standards - the sound of the upper woodwinds and strings is a bit on the harsh and strident side and the general sonic atmosphere is a bit one-dimensional. That may put off some people.
The performance is well worth the time spent listening many times over. I remember hearing the LP back when I was a teenager and am very happy that it's available on CD.
I'm not sure if this 1962 live recording of Brahms's mighty Piano Concerto No. 1 helps support my conclusions about Bernstein's added vitality in the concert hall compared to the studio, however, as right off we have Bernstein's pre-performance pronouncement that this performance will have significantly broader tempi, yielding to the wishes of his soloist, Glenn Gould. While others have provided the background on the historic nature of this recording, I will only add that Bernstein's speech is actually quite witty, and the audience laughs and reacts with seeming anticipation. For me, it is episodes like this that make live recordings worthwhile! Repeated listening of this speech, however, could grow tiresome during casual listening.
My experience with Brahms's first Piano Concert has centered on two recordings, the Curzon/Szell/London Symphony recording on Decca and the Douglas/Sinaisky/USSR Academic Symphony (also live) on Melodiya. While this Gould/Bernstein recording is indeed slower than either of these other excellent recordings that I've enjoyed for years - evident right from the very opening bars of the first movement - it is not that exaggerated or very far outside the bounds of reason (some may even be disappointed by this!). In fact, the pace of the performance seems to foreshadow how Bernstein would evolve later in his career (as others have pointed out, this performance is actually a tad quicker than Bernstein's later DG recording with Zimerman). Gould's playing is contemplative and measured, but never ponderous nor lethargic by any means. At the end of the performance, the audience applauds enthusiastically with none of the reported booing (perhaps the applause is faded out beforehand). Gould claimed he appreciated the booing, sensing that he had made a provocative statement, which he preferred over complacent audience acceptance of his performance ideas.
Being a re-mastered radio broadcast, this recording is not stereo, and it suffers from a quite audible bronchially-congested audience. For purists and audiophiles of modern sound, these problems may make them dismiss this recording out of hand. However, the sound is very clear and ranks with the very best radio broadcast recordings I've heard from this vintage! I do recommend this recording to fans of either Bernstein or Gould and for those willing to survey historic and live performances that have marked important milestones or shaped the discourse of classical music. Indeed, this recording is still discussed on these pages and elsewhere. For me, it is more than just a curiosity and is enjoyable in its own right (given my interest in live recordings).
Before posting this review, I re-listened to the Curzon and Douglas recordings for some direct comparisons. Szell's opening of the first movement for Curzon is faster and more dramatic with a greater sense of forward movement so that the music's structure is better articulated. Curzon's Adagio (second movement) is actually more than two minutes longer than Gould's rendition. And of course, the great Decca sound (recorded a month after the Gould performance) is truly outstanding, even by today's digital recording standards. Douglas' live recording is even faster paced with the expected spontaneity and excitement of a live event with an audience that is amazingly quiet until their fervent applause at the end (indeed, this Melodiya recording is of Douglas' performance at the 8th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition from July 3, 1986, in which he won the gold medal - clearly, an important milestone event!). I'm sure I'll be pulling the Gould recording off the shelf on occasion, but I'm not replacing either of my studio Curzon or live Douglas recordings anytime soon!
The only quibble with the recording is the mediocre sound.
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What's that? You already have several recordings of it? Of course you do.Read more