Litvintseva’s Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1: A Full-Priced Calling Card

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

A new release at full price by a relatively unknown pianist containing a piece that’s been recorded over and over again like the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 is bound to elicit a single word from most collectors and critics: “Why?”. Actually there’s much to enjoy in Ekaterina Litvintseva’s playing. She conceives the solo part from the bottom up, meaning that pliable bass lines and harmonically aware phrasing dominate her interpretation, especially in the first movement’s lyrical unaccompanied sequences and in the slow movement’s left-hand accompaniment.

Tempos are conservative but not overly broad, full of flexibility and animation. This undoubtedly contributes to the effect of Litvintseva’s carefully gauged climaxes and long-lined projection. However, the Klassische Philharmonie Bonn’s small forces and relatively underpowered strings cannot match the tonal heft and roaring impact of a full orchestra. For example, one would have expected more incisive articulation and less tapering in the Rondo’s fughetta (track three, 5:19). Given the disc’s 48-minute playing time, Litvintseva ought to have thrown in some solo selections as well. But the concerto alone sufficiently showcases her fine and serious-minded pianism, even if this disc is essentially a calling card for an emerging talent rather than a truly competitive Brahms First Concerto on the level of Arrau, Rubinstein, Freire, Fleisher, Gilels, or the underrated Donohoe/Sanderling edition.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Freire/Chailly (Decca); Gilels/Jochum (DG); Fleisher/Szell (Sony); Arrau/Kubelik (Orfeo)

  • Ekaterina Litvintseva (piano)
  • Klassische Philharmonie Bonn, Herbert Beissel


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