Maurizio Pollini / Christian Thielemann / Staatskapelle Dresden

Brahms: Klavierkonzerte Nr. 1 & 2

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Maurizio Pollini, still one of the undisputed stars of the piano when these performances were recorded in 2011 and 2014, had already recorded the Brahms concertos several times before. One might expect a kind of late-life summation, but this is nothing of the sort. Instead, Pollini seems energized by the chance at an unusual pianist-conductor interaction, something arguably more important with Brahms than with any other composer: the motivic web can be knitted in various ways. Pollini's lithe elegance, little diminished in his late sixties, stands in sharp contrast to the big-boned dramatics of Christian Thielemann, leading the venerable Staatskapelle Dresden, and many passages sound totally novel. Sample the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, where the eruption of the restless main theme in the piano seems almost introductory to the powerful strides of the orchestral statement. The new dialogues develop exquisitely in the more intricate second concerto, and throughout, Pollini has given us recordings that will stand up for decades, even if they're on the unorthodox side. Highly recommended in a 2016 pairing of the two concertos in a single, budget-priced package.

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