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HALL OF FAMEon August 23, 2006
David Hurwitz makes some silly comments in his Amazon review, but he's on target about ow good this CD is. Agreeing with all the accolades heaped on this 1962 recording of the Brahms First Concerto is easy, but not many reviewers here have captured what makes this performance special. Clifford Curzon never relied upon power and flash; he was a modest man and a scrupulous musician steeped in European style. His Brahms First is magical because he finds a sensitive, lyrical way of phrasing every bar. Instead of crashing and bagning, which even the best pianists are tempted to do in order to compete with Brahms' thick, overbearing orchestration, Curzon plays forcefully but without excessive bravura.

This proves a triumphant way to approach the thorny first movement, even in a field where sensitive readings from Barenboim and Fleisher, among others, also avoid showmanship and keyboard bagning. Curzon profound, inward reading is aided by Szell, who reins in the orchestral part--there's no attempt to make the noisy opening of the first movement storm the heavens. I'm grateful to discover such a singing performance, which has been captured in amazingly natural, life-like sound by Decca.

Note: This same coupling and remastering can be had in Decca's Legends series. I'd go for the cheapest copy I could find on the used market.
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on August 9, 2001
The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto is one the most difficult piano concertos to perform. There are many great recordings, including private recording taped live, such as Kapell and Mitropolous and Ogden & Stokowski, both available on Music and Arts. So I will keep my review based on studio recordings. Szell has recorded this with three different pianists, but this version with Curzon is his best. The Decca engineers have captured Szell and Curzon and their best. The 1st movement is filled with the drama and tragedy you expect from Brahms. The sound of the french horns is simply thrilling! Carfully balanced by the insightful, penentrating reading by Curzon. Szell has made some augmentations in the score, such as adding trumpets to the last bars of the first movement. It sounds great! Another great recording is the one by Gilels and Jochum on DG. Buy both and compare for yourself! For a comparison on how Szell performed the same piece with a different pianist, buy the version he recorded with Fleisher. Another great recording, but the version with Curzon has the edge.
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on July 24, 2002
I think I've reached the point where I enjoy this product of Brahms' youth as much as his later Second Piano Concerto. This performance by Curzon and Szell stands at the head of the class, and CLASS is the perfect description here. I'm familiar with two other versions of this Brahms work that Szell recorded some time ago as well, with Leon Fleisher and Rudolf Serkin. While both of these pianists perform extremely well, Curzon moves to a higher level. He provides the nimbleness of Fleisher AND the sturdiness of Serkin, but he offers greater suppleness, repose and refinement. His lovely phrasing is more imaginative and he is more musical in his playing. The greater musicality is often manifested in the range of sonority he displays in fleshing out notes, particularly in the second movement. Though Fleisher might play with more abandon in the final movement and Serkin's raw power is impressive, my overall experience with Curzon is simply more enjoyable. On a final note, I would like to cite for praise one other performance of this work which also gives me much satisfaction. It is the 1962 recording of Serkin and Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is distinguished by great clarity, attractive detail and the enthusiastic and outstanding level of play by soloist, conductor and orchestra.
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on September 25, 2007
Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this performance of the Brahms piano concerto no 1. I also own the Gilels/Jochum but like Jeffrey Lee and Santa Fe reviewers have noted, I do not prefer the ponderous and sometimes too careful/restrained playing exhibited by Gilels in that recording. Szell is amazing in this recording! - power, tension, precision and rhythmic control are all there with Szell. Also, the sound you will get in this recording is better than the brahms piano concerto recordings Szell made with Fleischer and Serkin. Thanks to Decca (engineer - kenneth wilkinson) is better than the Columbia sound. Sound is very natural with excellent dynamics and spatial presence.

Like the gramophone reviewer noted in the liner notes for this recording, I may regret it later, but this is the best recording of the Brahms piano concerto 1 I have heard.
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on May 19, 2015
A short review here, perfect in all aspects. Most critical is the communication of the music with you, ones feels that this is exactly what Brahms at that stage in his life wanted to express, cannot be played in any other way. Recording still excellent, what more does one want ?
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on August 14, 2011
As almost everyone reports, this is an amazing recording indeed, its perfect close sound balances and performance alike. I myself find the slow movement just too too plodding, however, and would prefer and recommend the other two Szells and others besides. I had no idea Szell ever played so slowly, or could; I wonder how this one goes bar for bar against Bernstein/Gould. And I am astounded at how Szell gets the London to sound, in both precision and sweep, quite like Cleveland.

Almost everyone has tempo distension (and similar) problems somewhere in this piece. I am reading reviews of Zimerman and Lupu and those are the complaints there (among others). Since this piece's motor is quite different from Brahms's other large orchestral works, it must not be easy to decide how things should go, how it should hang together and at what pace. I would call the attention of readers to Kovacevich / Sawallisch for a superior modern performance, though there are just so many I don't know yet (I would love this piece --- great, daring, scarred, as Michael Steinberg put it --- played on kazoo). But Curzon and Szell's work in the first and last movements is really something.
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on June 26, 2014
Like many, I'm always interested in obtaining the best possible mastering of any recording I buy. To that end, I conducted a null test comparing this release directly with the earlier "Classic Sound" release. The result? They are bit-perfect copies of one another. So make your choice based on price.
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on June 8, 2000
This is a towering classic of a towering piano concerto. Among the very favorites of piano concertos, Brahms 1st piano concerto has it all. But to get it all, you have to have the right pianist playing and the right orchestra being led by the right conductor. I have no hesitation in saying that there are some great recordings out there, but this one stands out for four main reasons. 1) It has the elements I just mentioned for this particular work to succeed 2) The engineering has successfully brought out all the orchestral elements in splendid brilliance 3) the price is right 4) come on it's Clifford Curzon playing Brahms 1 !
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on December 17, 2002
I agree with all the rave reviews about this classic recording of Brahms First Piano Concerto. But so far no one has mentioned the technical aspect of this recording which makes it so stunning. If you are used to the Columbia recordings of Szell/Cleveland made in Severance Hall, you will be shocked by the close miking of the piano and the orchestra in this recording. The result in an "in-your-face" musical experience that is simply compelling - it is impossible to listen to it and remain disengaged. A worthy addition to any collection, even if you have other recordings of this great work.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 23, 2006
Agreeing with all the accolades heaped on this 1962 recording of the Brahms First Concerto is easy, but not many reviewers here have captured what makes this performance special. Clifford Curzon never relied upon power and flash; he was a modest man and a scrupulous musician steeped in European style. His Brahms First is magical because he finds a sensitive, lyrical way of phrasing every bar. Instead of crashing and bagning, which even the best pianists are tempted to do in order to compete with Brahms' thick, overbearing orchestration, Curzon plays forcefully but without excessive bravura.

This proves a triumphant way to approach the thorny first movement, even in a field where sensitive readings from Barenboim and Fleisher, among others, also avoid showmanship and keyboard bagning. Curzon profound, inward reading is aided by Szell, who reins in the orchestral part--there's no attempt to make the noisy opening of the first movement storm the heavens. I'm grateful to discover such a singing performance, which has been captured in amazingly natural, life-like sound by Decca.
44 comments| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

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