Beethoven Concertos Andante C

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 3

It’s a bit difficult to try to figure out exactly whom this collection of Beethoven concerto performances best serves. Let’s leave aside the issue of whether or not you want to purchase a set with multiple versions of Concertos 3, 4, and 5. The fact remains that without exception wherever an “official” remastering of an included performance exists, it sounds better. So the relatively anonymous Dorfmann/Toscanini First and much more characterful Rubinstein/Toscanini Third both enjoy brighter, more vivid remastering in RCA’s Toscanini Edition, and the same holds true for the excellent RCA Kapell Edition issue of Concerto No. 2. Sony’s sources for the Serkin/Walter “Emperor” Concerto offer much smoother, richer sonics than this transfer, as do EMI’s (via Testament) for the Schnabel/Galliera version of the same work (an odd choice this–the earlier recording with Sargent remains more interesting, though of course it’s been reissued about a million times).

Haskil’s respectable but hardly overwhelming Fourth Concerto finds its best incarnation on Decca, though that disc may be all but impossible to locate at present. The Long/Weingartner Third Concerto is available in the generally excellent (and just as pricey) Japanese Weingartner Edition, but it’s a pretty dull affair in any case (the finale comes across as particularly flat), while the Gieseking/Böhm Fourth Concerto, full of this pianist’s characteristically lovely tone, nevertheless skates over the surface of the music in near record time. It’s also available on APR, though here differences between transfers are marginal at best. So this is not entirely a collection of great performances, nor does it offer the best possible remasterings. On the other hand, if you want these specific historical recordings, purchasing this set is certainly easier–and probably more economical as well–than tracking down the individual issues, spread out as they are over the discographic universe. Still, with a little detective work you probably can find the best of the items contained here (Kapell, Rubinstein, and Serkin), in better sound, for much less than Andante’s $80 price tag.

Fine notes, but very awkward packaging–putting a disc back into its paper sleeve without touching the playing surface is a real chore, and it would be nice to have who plays what listed on the outer cover of the book-style package to minimize the need to hunt around to find the information (and as an aid to customers shopping in stores rather than online, who otherwise would have no idea of the set’s actual contents).



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Concertos 1-5: Fleischer/Szell (Sony), Schnabel/Sargent (Pearl)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Piano Concertos 1-5

  • Ania Dorfman
    Walter Gieseking
    Clara Haskil
    William Kapell
    Marguerite Long
    Artur Rubinstein
    Artur Schnabel
    Rudolf Serkin (piano)

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