This weekend, the Oregon Symphony is performing the early (op. 15) First Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms with the great pianist Jon Kimura Parker. It’s long been one of my favorite pieces, a stormy, hyper-emotional, post-adolescent expression of the 25 year old Brahms. I only own one recording of this particular concerto, and to my mind, it’s the only one that anyone need own: Leon Fleischer with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.
It’s a recording of such supple power, with extraordinary playing by the Cleveland Orchestra at the peak of its powers, and without even a hint of bombast or over-wrought emotionalism that can mar performances of this piece (a prime example being Krystian Zimmerman and Leonard Bernstein’s virtually un-listenable recording).
It will be interesting to see what Carlos does with the tutti passages of the concerto, as he tends to pare down orchestral textures in Brahms to make the inner voices clearer, and present a lean and lithe conception of what often can be rendered as thick and stodgy.
Fleisher and Szell play Brahms [purchase at amazon.com]