, May 2012
This valuable release nicely complements two existing live Katchen accounts of the Brahms concerto…
The 1967 performance is vintage Katchen in its bigness of conception, mercurial reflexes, and expressive fullness and generosity, with that distinctive metallic glint to his piano tone. Equally distinctive are the rich bronzed sculpting of the contrapuntal lines in the Adagio, and the passionate urgency of the second theme (B Minor–F♯-Minor, bars 37 ff.)…the central episode (B♭-Major–Minor) has great finesse and delicacy. The final stages…summon an irrepressible mounting excitement, culminating in a final cadenza of thrilling abandon. Kempe’s conducting is a major plus, in its typical distinctive grace, lightness of touch (always airborne, even in the heaviest textures), and rich subtlety of shading, inspiring a fine-tuned response from the BBC orchestra.
The fillers are live radio recordings made in the BBC’s studios without an audience. They are consistently riveting, from the massive yet sharply chiseled Chopin ballade to an astonishing no-holds-barred assault on the Mephisto Waltz—indeed verging on reckless, considering which his level of accuracy is phenomenally impressive. A wonderfully elastic, long-breathed Vogel als Prophet provides a welcome respite before Triana, which he fairly burns through, taking no prisoners—perhaps a little short on local color, but terrifically exciting.
The sound is consistently good for its time and provenance, and ICA’s transfers and production values are of a high standard. This marvelous new label…is a class act, and I wish it a long life. Highly recommended. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare