BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique” – Mischa Dichter, piano/Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/Kurt Masur – PentaTone

by | Sep 8, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique” – Mischa Dichter, piano/Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/Kurt Masur – PentaTone RQR Series MultiChannel SACD 5186 125, 66:21 ****:

I recall having spoken to Mischa Dichter after a Binghamton recital, when I remarked that RCA, his first recording company, had not represented his sound with any fidelity. He concurred and mentioned he was about to switch to Philips, from which these 1976 (Beethoven) and 1977 (Brahms) inscriptions derive. Polyhymnia has used the original four-channel masters, expanding the sonic dimension so that the opening horn motif of the B-flat Concerto assumes an offstage presence. Much of the Brahms passagework lends itself to symphonic, antiphonal instrumental groupings, so that tremolando strings naturally separate from wind and horn riffs. Churning basses and celli grumble significantly in their own space. Dichter’s piano has a pungent resonance, a penetrating reverberation, that sparkles as well as thunders. Occasionally, the patina comes close to that metallic ping which plagues many piano recordings. But the fluent, alternately aerial and lush blanket of sound from the Gewandhaus Orchestra more than counters the percussion in the keyboard. When the main theme reappears in the tonic for the recapitulation, the musical effect is that of Finding Neverland.

The wisp of a Scherzo in D Minor has the cellos and basses groaning in stormy support of Dichter’s alternately pounding octaves and smooth legato filigree. Masur has the horns and strings in high carillon just before the piano’s variant on the main theme. Dichter plays the mid-section as a lovely intermezzo; the staccato e marcato, we proceed to another blazing moment of heraldry. Misterioso, we saunter into the final statement of the full theme, the piano now become a percussive orchestral instrument. The grand sweep of the coda is as kaleidoscopic as Brahms gets in surround sound.
 
The cello nocturne that opens the Andante is quite lovely, surrounded by a frail tissue of strings, after Bach’s treatment of the halo motif in the St. Matthew Passion. Except that the keyboard part becomes increasingly animated and bravura, the music proceeds in stately, heroic mold, with Dichter sounding in several respects like Claudio Arrau. Nice duets later in the movement between cello and piano, the basses throbbing as the piano ascends its trill. Dichter approaches the sonata-rondo finale lightly, almost gingerly, one might say. Then the music hurtles forward with a divine force, albeit graciously, as marked. Good sonic separation to the flute. The stretti passages are blazing and alive, a combination of splinters and cream. Masur urges a definite swagger from the Gewandhaus players, and the whole buoyantly progresses to joyous, multichannel conclusion.
 
Dichter’s Beethoven balances dramatic mass and coloratura lyricism, the chromaticism of the composer’s pain and the diatonism of his will. Dichter takes the first movement repeat, the nervous tension in the left hand quite accentuated, with its descending scale that some pianists, like Cherkassky, thrust forward. The progressions become quite recognizable for their kinship with Wagner’s Tristan. The lovely A-flat Adagio Dichter presents as a refined, simple hymn, spare in its incremental progressions. Dichter keeps a lithe, light hand on the Rondo, the contrapuntal elements clear, the legato impulse in tension with the brilliant, agitated triplet figures. A music-box sonority pervades the latter pages of the development; then, the soft transition to the abbreviated recap and the crashing chords that end a series of emotional crises.

— Gary Lemco

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