Piano Concertos 1-5 Complete Box set
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|1. Piano Concerto No. 1 In C Major, Op. 15: I. Allegro con brio|
|2. Piano Concerto No. 1 In C Major, Op. 15: II. Largo|
|3. Piano Concerto No. 1 In C Major, Op. 15: III. Rondo: Allegro|
|4. Six Bagatelles, Op. 126: I. Andante Con Moto, Cantabile E Compiacevole|
|5. Six Bagatelles, Op. 126: II. Allegro|
|6. Six Bagatelles, Op. 126: III. Andante, Cantabile E Grazioso|
See all 10 tracks on this disc
|1. Piano Concerto No. 3 In C Minor, Op. 37: I. Allegro con brio|
|2. Piano Concerto No. 3 In C Minor, Op. 37: II. Largo|
|3. Piano Concerto No. 3 In C Minor, Op. 37: III. Rondo: Allegro|
|4. Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58: I. Allegro moderato|
|5. Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58: II. Andante con moto|
|6. Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58: III. Rondo: Vivace|
|1. Piano Concerto No. 5 In E Flat Major, Op. 73: I. Allegro|
|2. Piano Concerto No. 5 In E Flat Major, Op. 73: II. Adagio un poco mosso|
|3. Piano Concerto No. 5 In E Flat Major, Op. 73: III. Rondo: Allegro|
|4. Piano Concerto No. 2 In B Flat Major, Op. 19: I. Allegro con brio|
|5. II. Adagio: 2. Adagio|
|6. Piano Concerto No. 2 In B Flat Major, Op. 19: III. Rondo: Molto allegro|
Each of these performances has its own profile. The orchestra plays incisively in the First Concerto, but Ashkenazy's plush lyricism doesn't make a good match either with the orchestra or with the music, and he makes one weird ritard in the first movement. The Second Concerto is uneventful, rather bland and pleasant. The Third Concerto seems to be the best performance of the lot, with dramatic playing by soloist and orchestra, but it's sabotaged by blurry recorded sound, the only serious problem with sound quality in the entire set. The Fourth Concerto is enlivened, at least intellectually, by Solti's approach, constantly revealing interesting unfamiliar details in the orchestral score. Ashkenazy's detachment makes this a frosty but fascinating experience. The "Emperor" is a good routine performance, nothing special. The Bagatelles aren't much of a bonus, since they're rather dully played. (Why not the "Choral" Fantasy?) There's nothing actively bad about this set, and it's reasonably priced. But Beethoven deserves better, and gets it from many performers, including the fascinating Uchida-Sanderling collaborations. --Leslie Gerber
Top Customer Reviews
To me, it seems as if Ashkenazy has no sense of style. His approaches to these concertos are more lyrical and romantic rather than classical. Take the first, for example. Ashkenazy treats the piano line as if he were playing Chopin. Solti, on the other hand, seems to feel that louder is better. Thus we have a very bizarre dialogue between piano and orchestra in the C major concerto. The second isn't much better. Although Ashkenazy gives a much better reading, Solti again feels that the CSO must play as forcefully as possible. The concerto is rather bland in the first place and Ashkenazy's approach is nothing special. The third concerto is wonderfully played by both Ashkenazy and the CSO. Ashkenazy treatment of the piano line is more classical while Solti's boisterous approach actually works in this powerful work. However, poor recording conditions (the evident hiss in the background) ruin the largo. The G major concerto is the most interesting in the set. Solti's treatment of the orchestra accompaniment is quite inspired - this is Solti at his most tender. However, Ashkenazy's icy interpretation is detached, it seems as if he and Solti are on two entirely different pages. Although the recording is remarkable in its beauty, Ashkenazy's lack of warmth leaves a chilling cloud over the performance. The fifth is nothing special. Solti is back to being loud and Ashkenazy gives a good, routine performance.
All in all, even at a budget price, this set is not highly recommended.
For those on a budget, I would recommend Szell / Fleisher, or the recent bargain re-release of the Brendel / Levine set instead. At about the same price (or even slightly cheaper), they are both much better sets all around.
Even at a bargain price, this set really isn't worth it, especially when so many sets are being remastered and reissued at bargain-basement prices. I've never understood Solti's reputation, other than as a pedantic. For all his incessant talk about divining meaning from the score and plumbing the depths, I rarely find a lot of insight in his interpretations. Often he and the CSO were just full and loud, at least on record (I never got to hear them live), and that's mostly the result here. Not recommended.
But these performances, having all the power and excitement of the later Chicago Symphony recordings, also have warmth, love, and sweetness. Ashkenazy too was at his peak in these recordings. His later cycle, in Cleveland, lacks the bite and depth of involvement that you can find here.
If you want a capsule summary of the performance philosophy of these performances, it is easy to describe: they are unapologetically romantic. In my opinion, the Third and Fourth concertos are particularly fine. Both Ashkenazy and Solti find exactly the right combination of power and beauty in both works, and the quality of the performances is further emphasized by the gorgeous sound.
And speaking of sound, those who believe that a recording has to be DDD in order to have state-of-the-art sound need to listen to these recordings. The subsequent digital recordings of these works that I have heard are all comparatively cold and clinical.
I consider it unfortunate that in the last 25 years music has been more of an intellectual or historical exercise than an emotional experience or an appreciation of beauty. But back in the 70s when this was recorded, Solti and Ashkenazy had not been infected by those negative trends.
Looking at the individual concertos, I have a slight preference for Richter's recording of the First and the Serkin/Bernstein recording of the "Emperor" (Fifth). But if you want a complete set of outstanding performances of all five Beethoven concertos, I don't think there is another set that comes close to these.
Most recent customer reviews
Ashkenazy did impress me with a fine performance of the concertos. I cannot say much about the organization of the CDs - Concerto 5 before Concerto 2 - but all in all a good set.Published 20 months ago by Joe Garnel
The sound is just fine to me--typical Decca sound of the period, with a nice bloom on the strings, and just enough resonance. Read morePublished on July 11 2012 by Rogue Classicist
I've always loved Beethoven's music, but when I heard the piano concertos, especially #5, I was blown away. It is far and away my favourite piece of music.Published on June 2 2011 by Pierre Alexander Emond
This is a good set of the piano concertos. However, the main problem is in the Fifth (Emperor): the second movement is extremely slow and faltering. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2004
This is a good set of the piano concertos. However, the main problem is in the Fifth (Emperor): the second movement is extremely slow and faltering. Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2003
If you're a fan of Vladimir Ashkenazy, you'll probably enjoy this set. He has recorded Beethoven's five piano concertos three times. Read morePublished on June 5 2001 by samantha
I agree with those who've given this set of Beethoven piano concerti high praise. Rarely have I've heard Ashkenazy play with such warmth and enthusiasm and Solti and the Chicago... Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2001 by John Kwok
These are wonderful performances of Beethoven's piano concertos. Based on the positive reviews and the high sales rank, a lot of people agree that there is not much wrong with this... Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2001 by R.D. Monsoon
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