This is the greatest recording, or performance, of any piece of music I have heard in my 60 years of life. To begin with, the music is beyond comprehension in its greatness. But, Richter and Leinsdorf and the CSO connected in a once-in-a-lifetime partnership that occurred only by accident (Reiner's illness).
Richter played this ideally, giving Brahms' passionate soul and classical mind equal weight. He didn't dawdle like many recent pianists do. He brought Russian passion to the score, but held on to the Germanic depth of feeling and substance. I give great credit to Leinsdorf, a normally underwhelming conductor. He seized the romantic impulses in the music and plunged ahead with full force, not afraid to let the brass have their say along with the deep strings, creating a richness of sound unequaled in any other version of this work that I've heard.
This performance is ideal for people who see this work as essentially symphonic, rather than a vehicle for solo showiness. Richter complies with an interpretation both powerful and fleet of foot ( a rare combination), without losing the many subtleties in the score. In other words, he performed it the way people tended to in the 1880s, rather than the 1980s, when every note was separated and examined under a microscope. The pianist and conductor see this as one piece of music, not thousands of notes collected together.
The new remastering is, well, masterful. The original recording was impressive sonically, especially in the midrange, and the new 24 bit remastering brings this out magnificently (and quietly), perfectly complementing the performances of Richter, Leinsdorf, and the CSO.
This is not a performance for everyone. If you like your Brahms interpretted as if he were Mozart, or Tchaikovsky, this will either be too powerful or too fast for your taste. If you like your Brahms to continue on the path that Beethoven opened up, this is nonpareil in every respect.
Near the end of his life (30 years after the fact), Richter disavowed this performance. He complained that Leinsdorf pushed the pace too quickly. This is not the first case of a great artist (the greatest pianist we have on record, in my opinion), revising his early ideals as age caught up to him. Artists have often shown throughout the centuries, that they are not the best critics. I think that history will prove Richter's, and Leinsdorf's, initial instincts correct, as I have thought and felt since my first hearing of this amazing record in 1961.