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Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 In B-flat minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 23; Dvorák: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 33

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 27, 1999
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 27, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 76 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000JQGX
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,194 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
It was very surprising when I discovered some less-than-enthusiastic reviews for this recording ( a negative one on classicstoday.com, and lukewarm reviews on classical.net, and right here on Amazon). I had long regarded it as one of the very best recordings of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. Bernstein conducts the NY Philharmonic with his usual passion, emotion--but without overindulgence-- and his knack for creating great excitement. Pianist Phillipe Entremont accompanies with brilliant and fiery piano playing that, together with Bernstein's conducting, really captures the drama and struggle of this tempestuous warhorse. (Entremont has got to be one of the most underrated pianists of all time, especially after hearing this recording and his recordings of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paginini and Grieg's Piano Concerto, both with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sony Essential Classics). There are other great recordings of the Tchaikovsky, particularly Van Cliburn in strereo and Martha Argerich in digital, but none of them convey the granduer and heroism that Bernstein and Entremont bring to this performance, making this work sound more epic than any other recording. I was very pleased when I saw a very positive review of this recording on ArkivMusic.com. Please read that review as it complements mine. The sound quality, using 24 bit remastering (the best currently available), is extremely good, better than the other stereo recordings.
The Dvorak Piano Concerto is not up to par with Dvorak's greatest works (like his cello concerto) and I am not familiar with other recordings of the work, but this is a very good performance and has great sound. The concerto has many memorable Slavic tunes and is a worthy filler.
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Format: Audio CD
There's a bit of a mismatch here in the Tchaikovsky First, where Entremont sounds competent but Bernstein is really paying attention and giving us a distinguished orchestral reading. The meticulous Entremont wasn't a pianist with a heroic style, and he tends to fiddle around in the second movement after pretending to be a mini-Horowitz in the first. I guess this lack of virtuoso temperament was a selling point: the ultimate warhorse concerto was being taken seriously. But why? The Tchai First is a circus of a piece and works best that way. The NY Phil. is recorded on a grand scale here, but the piano sounds clattery, and pingy at the top. Four stars is generous for the overall effort.

Except in the Czech Republic, the sprawling Dvorak Piano Concerto will always be an after-thought, and few pianists ever add it to their repertoire. Audiences wouldn't be so impatient with this work, however, if they got to hear the kind of galvanizing, go-for-broke orchestral part that Bernstein provides. The music jumps with life, and the recording is fuller and more dynamic than that given to the Tchaikovsky. Justus Franz isn't Richter (to name the most famous virtuoso to take up the piece), but his playing is clean and tasteful; beyond that, he's having fun along with the conductor, which counts for a lot. I'd rate this the best performance I've ever heard. Five stars despite the work's weaknesses.
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Format: Audio CD
This Benrstein Century CD coupling Tchaikovsky's and Dvorak's Piano Concertos is excellent, but really only for true Bernstein fans. The reason I say this is there are so many truly classic recordings available of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto by others -- Horowitz, Argerich, Richter and Cliburn to name a few -- that you would truly have to prefer Bernstein performances to all others to select this recording as your definitive version. Entremont's performance on piano is fine, but I have to give preference to any and all of the other four I mentioned above before this title. As far as the Dvorak Concerto goes, his composition for piano is not half the work that either his concertos for cello or violin are. And again, I prefer the Kleiber/Richter account on EMI Classics to this one by Bernstein and Frantz. In all, this recording is perfectly competent, but Bernstein fans would do themselves a service by diversifying their portfolios and selecting a performance by a different artist.
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