Misha Dichter

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 'Moonlight'

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Like many compositions of Johannes Brahms, the First Piano Concerto underwent many transformations and revisions before appearing in its present guise. Brahms began work on Op. 15 first as a two-piano sonata, then as a symphony, then finally as a piano concerto. Its symphonic roots remain prevalent in the modern version with its extensive orchestral introduction and expansive tuttis. Conversely, the concerto also has several extended moments for piano solo, harkening back its time as a work for two pianos. This PentaTone Classics SACD is a remaster of a 1977 performance by pianist Misha Dichter and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Kurt Masur. Despite all of the technological efforts at restoration, sound quality here is not entirely pleasing. The piano's tone in its upper register is quite thin and dry; the bass register is muddy, made worse when playing alongside the orchestra, at which point individual notes are indistinguishable. Masur does a nice job keeping the orchestra in pace with Dichter, though the tempo throughout the first movement is somewhat plodding. While it's nice to have this concerto available on SACD, there are other, far superior alternatives. Rubinstein's historic performance with the Chicago Symphony -- which has also been reissued on SACD -- comes immediately to mind. The remainder of the album is filled up with a practical but uninspiring rendition of Beethoven's Op. 27/2 sonata, the so-called "Moonlight" Sonata. Here again, the upper register of the piano is generally dissatisfying. PentaTone makes no mention of the performers in its otherwise informative liner notes.

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