Alexis Weissenberg / Herbert von Karajan / Riccardo Muti

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; Franck: Variations symphoniques

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A singularly unappealing account of Brahms' magisterial Piano Concerto in D minor, his monumental Tombeau de Schumann, it is difficult to understand what might have led EMI to reissue it. Alexis Weissenberg was a tough, tight, and hard piano player with lots of technique but not much charm or depth, and his 1983 performance with Riccardo Muti conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra is so highly polished and wholly empty that it barely exists in the real world. One can hear everything, but there's nothing there: no commitment, no soul, no spirit, and certainly not Brahms' overwhelmingly passionate and dramatic music, just zillions of notes, perfectly formed but utterly void. Weissenberg's 1972 recording of Franck's Symphonic Variations is just as brilliant and just as vapid with Karajan and the Berlin adding nothing more than a blank surface upon which Weissenberg's virtuosity may contemplate itself. EMI's digital remasterings are cleaner than the slightly dank and damp originals, but not much more appealing.

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