Rudolf Serkin

Rudolf Serkin Plays Beethoven, Vol. 2

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Apparently produced by a couple of Italian enthusiasts, this is not a fancy historical reissue. It features a pair of obscure regional orchestras associated with Italy's RAI radio network, and there are no booklet notes or anything else explaining where these live recordings originated, beyond the city (Rome in onc case and Naples in the other) and month (both June of 1958). It's also an absolutely superb album that captures one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, Rudolf Serkin, at the top of his powers. He delivers extraordinary performances of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19, and Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Serkin takes fast tempos in all the outer movements, creating headlong forward motion fully restrained by steely technique. Along the way there are plenty of pleasures: the vivid contrast between the contemplative slow movement and the tumultuous outer movements in the Piano Concerto No. 3, the rich delineation of the harmonic structure in the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2, the insistent yet playful quality of that concerto's final rondo. Beethoven performances just don't get much better than this, and the recording should be of interest beyond circles of fans of historical recordings. The sound is adequate for its time.

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