I bought this disc for 49 cents in a supermarket where it lay in a big basket, shoulder to shoulder with James Last. I thought I couldn't go very wrong for this kind of money. I was in for a big surprise! This must be the best price-quality ratio ever. I knew the famous Van Cliburn - Kondrashin version, but this one with the RIAS Orchestra under Kertesz (august 28, 1961) was even finer. Listen to the Andantino simplice. Pure magic! In fact, this turned out to be my favorite version of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. Later I discovered another release of the same concerto, on the label Shangri-La. Here the orchestra was identified as the Berlin Philharmonic. My gut feeling tells me it is the BPO, but maybe some knowledgable reader can shed more light on this. The sound is astonishing good, with a forward placed piano and enough space and depth in the orchestra.
The coupling was also a surprise. It is a take of a live concert in Carnegie Hall (march 21, 1954) by the then 87-year old Toscanini with Tchaikovsky's Pathétique in experimental stereo. This version of the Pathetique has in recent years also been re-issued by Music & Arts (2005) and Pristine Audio (2008). A minor quibble: orchestral ensemble playing in the first movement is rather sloppy, bur after that the old maestro has a tight reign on the proceedings and a very fine Pathétique arises (not too hard-driven as can be the case with Toscanini!). I don't know how this release compares to those of M & A and Pristine, but listeners who are used to the infamous etching studio H8 sound, will find this balm to their ears.
A review from Audiophile Audition:
"(...)and then Toscanini places us in the tempestuous throes of Tchaikovsky’s last symphony. Whatever personal reservations Toscanini entertained regarding Tchaikovsky’s merits as a composer in the symphonic tradition, his rendition of the Pathetique brooks no shallow half-measures. From the opening, soft pedal and bassoon solo through the first period, the music acquires a lyrical, songful elegance that eventually dissipates into dramatic expectation; the ensuing explosion of sound and Allegro non troppo resonate with sound and fury, with Toscanini’s attention to transitions exploiting the wonderful coloration of the score. While I find the second movement Allegro con grazia “merely” genial and beautifully balanced, the third movement Allegro molto vivace proves shattering, as potent as anything in the Gergiev or Mravinsky bag of orchestral tricks. The agogics fly at a superheated, frenzied pace, Tchaikovsky moving between dominant and subdominant with an especially nervous bombast and militant vigor. In stereo, the NBC woodwinds make an excellent series of points for their being among the most highly gifted choirs in American symphonic ensembles. By the end of the poignant finale, with its grand, melancholy gestures and echoes of the opening bassoon’s lament, the audience--already having been ready to worship Toscanini after the Scherzo--yell and scream in unbridled histrionics for a gripping performance."
The histrionics are cut away in this version. Nevertheless: enjoy!
dBpoweramp 13 Reference, ultrasecure, flac
Scans and log included