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The Concerto is one of the recordings that made Ivan Moravec's reputation as a great pianist. It's just as impressive-sounding today. Moravec and the excellent Martin Turnovsky seem to have given this great music an intense reexamination. They play it with attention to every detail, making it sound as though it were a new piece. Frequently you will hear details pointed out in illuminating ways, but never at the expense of musical continuity. This performance is a revelation. Although Moravec's conception of the Variations is a bit outsize, his playing of the solo works is equally convincing. The mid-60s recordings sound excellent. --Leslie Gerber
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The sonata is also very well performed and interpreted. Deserves a place in every collection.
there are glaring defects in ensemble, such as the cello accompaniment at the beginning of the finale, which lags by half a beat at one point. The horns hang back to much in the first movement, and everyone plays it safe throughout. Turnovsky isn't competitive with any rival conductor of note, not even Alexander Schneider for Serkin on Sony, who wasn't a full-time conductor but an extremely talented violinist. In addition the recorded sound places us right under the lid of the piano, and since Moravec is shy of using the pedal, there are moments of uncomfortable ping in the upper registers.
As for Moravec himself, his devotees walk on air, as they have since he was a cult pianist in the Sixties. Even by 1977 the Gramophone noted that he was all but unknown in Britain. Of course, a coterie can be right in its enthusiasm, and I respect anyone who loves Moravec's touch, is purity of line, his assurance, and above all his individuality. for me, those virtues don't add up to something exceptional in this concerto. Moravec, like Rubinstein, is a touch pianist when it comes to Beethoven; Chopin's nuances are never far away. He can be mannered, to my ears, although not here. What strikes me is very beautiful, precise, somewhat detached playing that is refreshing but not, I think, equal to Serkin or Pletnev in this music. As a touchstone, listen to the finale, and you will hear a certain sameness in the way Moravec approaches episodes where the other two find more variety, contrast, and drama. Heard at his best moments, Moravec is a delight, yet too many drawbacks keep me from sounding completely enthusiastic. By the way, the shorter and rarer of Beethoven's first-movement cadenzas is played.
As for the rest of the program, I don't have the Op. 90 Sonata but only the great C minor Variations. Moravec begins by punching out the theme, at a quick pace, to rival Richter at his most impetuous. The headlong rush doesn't continue, but he constantly leans into the phrase, insuring maximum momentum at all times. It's a thrilling approach that elevates one of Beethoven's less-played works. Here I can appreciate the originality and charisma that Moravec's fans hear at all times. But with such dynamic expressions of personality in this work, their lack in the concerto stands out. Too bad that the piano sounds brittle and clangy by turns.
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