These two Beethoven concerto recordings from 1962 (Emperor) and 1964 (Third Cncerto) are the only time, besides an equally commadning "Choral Fantasy" from the same era, that Bernstein and Serkin ever recorded together. The pianist was a dominant figure among the Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who put New York musical culture on the map, and Bernstein of course was the culmination of that phenomenon--he became the prodigal son returning to Vienna in triumph. There is a special, all but unmatched electricity in the meeting of these two greats.
I suppose Amazon's unreliable reviewer has a point in contrasting Serkin and Benrstein, but the actual performance speaks otherwise: both performers are galvanic. In five decades of listening I've grown used to listless accompaniments for the Beethoven piano concertos--even maestros on the order of Hiatink, Abbado, and Solti simply don't care. Here Bernstein acts as if these works are full-scale Beethoven symphonies, which is especially fortunate for the Third Concerto, so often underplayed as quasi-Haydn. Not this one; it's a robust cousin to the Emperor.
This Emperor was for 25 years the staple recording for Columbia, CBS, and Sony, put forward early in the digital era in a tinny mastering, now emerging in much better sound in the Bernstein Century series. Like the Third, it's a lion of a peformance, perhaps not as dominant in the field as the Third since there are so many great versions. But this one has the flavor of Bernstien's early exuberance and Serkin's profound understanding of Beethoven. Five stars without a doubt.