Rudolf Buchbinder / Zubin Mehta

Brahms: The Piano Concertos

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Recorded in 2009 in concert, these performances of Johannes Brahms' two piano concertos provide compelling music that is involving and rewarding, though problems with the live recording interfere with complete enjoyment. It's evident that pianist Rudolf Buchbinder is completely at home in these demanding works, and that Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra respond warmly to his deeply expressive playing, so on purely musical grounds, these are wonderful exchanges between pianist and orchestra that invite repeated listening. But the recordings, in Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, are slightly recessed and echoic, so attention to the volume must be paid. Furthermore, the persistence of background noises and faulty engineering become distracting over the course of this double-disc package. Were it only the audience's rustling and coughing, perhaps the noise could have been reduced by better microphone placement, or tolerated as an artifact of an unavoidable presence. But the recording levels seem to be poorly calibrated, judging from the adjustments that can be detected between tracks, and the mixing seems haphazard, shifting in focus throughout. One can certainly appreciate this album for the vigorous solo playing and the fully engaged orchestral accompaniment, but concerns about the audio will make it much less desirable to anyone who wants the highest quality reproduction.

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