BRAHMS: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Works of R. STRAUSS; SCHUBERT; BEETHOVEN – Rudolf Buchbinder, p./Israel Philharmonic /Zubin Mehta Helicon Classics 02-9636, (2 CDs)

by | May 15, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; Encores: J. STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus (arr. Gruenfeld); SCHUBERT: Impromptu in A-flat Major, D. 899, No. 4; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique”: Allegro – Rudolf Buchbinder, piano/Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta
Helicon Classics 02-9636, (2 CDs) 42:52, 60:48 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] ****:
Recorded live at the Mann Auditorium, Tel-Aviv (13-17 October 2009), the two Brahms concertos by Czech virtuoso Rudolf Buchbinder (b. 1946) allow us several fine insights into these concert staples, given that Buchbinder possesses the composer’s autograph scores and makes a particular study of expressive details. Recall that Buchbinder has inscribed these same works–for Teldec–with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The broad tempos of the D Minor Concerto with Mehta reveal its close emotional ties to the German Requiem, while the essential geniality of the B-flat Concerto–despite its demonic D Minor Scherzo–conveys a deep repose of spirit, a convivial virtuosity that has grasped the work as a whole. The slow movement–featuring cellist Micha Haran–offers a fine nocturne interrupted only slightly by orchestral tremolos and trills in the keyboard, so the appearance of the clarinets and cello becalm the mood once more in a reverie of idyllic beauty. Zubin Mehta himself recorded the Brahms D Minor Concerto in 1976 with his Israel Philharmonic for London Records, that time with one of the piece’s most veteran exponents, Artur Rubinstein. The torrential playing from Buchbinder in the D Minor Rondo finale should win him a measure of devotion from those otherwise unfamiliar with his command of the German repertory.
The diverse encore works showcase Buchbinder’s canny virtuosity as well as his grand moments with the Brahms concertos.  The Gruenfeld paraphrase of themes from Die Fledermaus epitomizes the self-indulgent salon showpiece of the Viennese fin-de-siecle, all glitter, slides, and ravishing octaves. Buchbinder manages to evoke sleigh bells from its repeated notes, the chime effects a close cousin to Liszt’s La Campanella. The spectacular cascades that finish the piece evoke yells and a few gasps from an appreciative audience. As subtle and graceful as the Gruenfeld is flashy, the Schubert A-flat Impromptu proffers its own cascades that culminate in a rocking melody that cellos would sing with gusto. The middle section–in C-sharp Minor with chordal accompaniment–reveals the concentrated depths Buchbinder can plumb without excess, his legato fluent and lilted. Lovely shaping and potent yet restrained sforzati mark the last movement of Beethoven’s C Minor Sonata, a chaste but inwardly passionate realization. The syncopations and bit of canon that form an interlude become powerfully layered, the musical “point” a lean, efficient transition to the Rondo theme. More often than not, Buchbinder’s touch and timbre refine his sound to forte-piano proportions. His last pages emanate enough force to remind us that here Beethoven already points to dramatic evolutions in his own style.
–Gary Lemco

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