Sunday, March 7, 2010

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Rudolph Serkin 1962

I don't really know that much about classical music, but I know what I like, and the piano concerto form has been an interest of mine for several years. I attended the entire five-year program of all of Mozart's piano concertos by Mitsuko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra, and that was huge fun.

In January we saw the Cleveland Orchestra perform Brahms' 2nd Symphony, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I borrowed some CDs from a friend and fell in love with this piece, Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2.

So then I went to the Stereophile web site and searched the site for this piece. See, when they review equipment, they often mention favorite recordings of various pieces of music. Plus they have an annual feature in the magazine called Records To Die For, where their staff choose great music that is also well recorded. At their web site I found a rave review of this performance of the concerto, and since I live in Cleveland and even saw George Szell as a child, well, why not.

So I hopped on over to the GEMM site to see if I could find it on vinyl, and sure enough, there it was. For about $14 (including shipping), I had a clean used vinyl copy of Rudolf Sekin with George Szell leading the Cleveland Orchestra in this fine piece of music.

The version that my friend loaned me was by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Vienna Philharmonic, and I loved it. I don't know if the Sekin I bought is any better or worse, but it sounds great. I can definitely tell it's a different performance, although I gave my friend's copy back before I got this one, so I can't tell you the difference.

The liner notes say that this was a very different and unique composition for Brahms, and I have no way to argue the point, or to tell you jack about it, except it is a super piece of music. The piano is awe-inspiring, the orchestra sounds great. If you like classical music, I'm sure you'd enjoy it in any format*.

*Any format except mp3, that is. Music has no business on mp3. I consider mp3 to be the equivalent of those extra slow tape recorder speeds that were used for spoken word only, and not music. You could put books out on mp3. Music, not so much.

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