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CD Review

Johannes Brahms

  • Academic Festival Overture Op. 80
  • Piano Concerto #2 in B Flat Op. 83
Alexis Weissenberg, piano
Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI di Torino/Peter Maag
Arts Archives 43038-2 58m ADD Rec. 1960
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This is another outstanding document from the rich archives of Italian radio with the great Peter Maag conducting two of Brahms' finest warhorses. The concerto also finds Weissenberg on top form and these are rightly performances to treasure.

The 'Academic Festival Overture' has a benign quality to it and it compares well with Krips and Van Beinum which remain my favourite versions all round. The triumphant closing finds the Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI in raptures and the sound is quite good for its 1960 vintage.

In the concerto, Weissenberg plays with a fine sense of authority and palpable character, quite superior than in his version with Karajan on EMI (nla). The booklet note lists some of the more famous versions of this great work such as Wilhelm Backhaus and Karl Böhm (Decca) or the equally vaunted Gilels/Jochum partnership on Deutsche Grammophon but this version is also up there amongst the legends.

The sense of nobility and panache that is created at the beginning of the work runs with throbbing character throughout the four movements and the joyous Finale is particularly enticing. ARTS remastering creates a wonderfully rich sound and at the price, this is definitely an essential historic document for lovers of this great concerto.

Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech