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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 [29:33]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 [35:35]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra/Stanislaw Wislocki
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
rec. 1959 and 1962. ADD stereo
ALTO ALC 1200 [65:00]


 
Working from original Deutsche Grammophon LPs Paul Arden-Taylor has given these two classic performances a fresh lease of bargain basement life. This continues the line established by Alto’s previous resurrection of the Richter/Michelangeli Rachmaninov concertos, which on that occasion married up DG and EMI sessions (review).
 
In fact the Schumann concerto here is from the same forces as the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2. The similarly plangent results can trace their source from a hypnotically deep romantic tradition. Here it is sensitive to the telling impact of the most careful attention to dynamic contrast without descending into mannered italicisation. The Tchaikovsky concerto finds the participants in burly romantic form. This is high octane stuff but I still prefer the growl and swoon of the Postnikova and Rozhdestvensky version with the same orchestra (review review). Still Richter is extraordinary though at times he does seem to be engaged in an epic struggle with Karajan. It keeps the listener on his toes. I also recall that another later collaboration between Karajan and Alexis Weissenberg was well worth hearing – one of my formative musical listening experiences (EMI ASD 2576). Let me not leave this work without again holding a laudatory torch for a rare CD coupling of what I consider to be among the very finest couplings of the first two Tchaikovsky concertos: Mikhaïl Petukhov with the Buenos Aires Phil conducted by Alexander Anissimov – the latter on very good form by comparison with his occasionally lacklustre showings on Naxos in Glazunov - Pavane ADW 7387
 
The LP stock yields up really good red-blooded results: towering yet poetic especially in the case of the Tchaikovsky. That said, in the Schumann and in the second movement of the Tchaikovsky there are some largely veiled but not inaudible low level thumps. Those and other occasional though discrete audio detritus are to be heard if you go listening. On the other hand you really have better things to do in this elite company.
 
Once again James Murray provides the complementary liner notes touching in all those fine little details that round out the experience.
 
These are performances full of vibrant character and the stuff of which musical discoveries are made likewise for those new to repertoire and for older and even jaded listeners.
 

Rob Barnett