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Reviews: Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 - Kovacevich/Davis

Reviews: 5

Review by sgb June 1, 2003 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This particular recording has been a favorite of mine since its inital release nearly thirty years ago. Stephen Kovacevich (or Bishop-Kovacevich. if you prefer) appeals as one of those pianists whose playing is rather forthright and precise, giving us here a rather lyrical presentation of the concerti full of grace and good demeanor. A little on the light side compared to those who pound out their Beethovens some would think.

Colin Davis is the consummate accompanist as conductor here as he has been on so many of the Davis/Kovacevich collaborations. A first-rate pianist deserves a first-rate conductor, after all, and the BBC Symphony give their all here to the pair to make this a class act through and through and start to finish.

Sound quality is better on this new Pentatone release than in any of the various releases on vinyl and CD I've heard in the past. I have not yet listened to this in its multi-channel, but the stereo segment is so lifelike, I may not ever make the effort to find an M-C player to hear it. Strongly recommended to those who prefer their Beethoven a little understated, and demand the best sound possible.

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Review by beardawgs October 4, 2003 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I could only repeat all the praise about the performers, it is a mach made in heaven for all who like their Beethoven. Just a short addition on a recording quality, which is like with every pentatone re-issue that Iíve heard exceptional!!!! Anyone having any doubts about multichannel should listen to these original quadraphonic recordings. It is full of life and excitement just like in the concert hall. Back channels are providing the Ďairí and the recording is transparent and real, itís so easy to imagine that one is sitting in front of the performers.

I only have a slight reservation about the piano sound on this SACD. The recording underlines its percussive quality, and occasionally the sound has uncomfortable metallic overtone. The orchestraís sound is full and majestic, and the forte passages are voluminous as Iíve never heard them before (apart from the live performance, of course). We sat mesmerised over and over again listening to this brilliant recording in surround.

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Review by madisonears October 12, 2003 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
My first Pentatone disc, and I'm happy to report it's a winner in every respect. Sound is open, three dimensional and transparent, with smooth string tones and the customary Philips weight to the bottom end. The piano is nearly perfect, with just the right balance between percussiveness and sonority, at the proper proportion to the orchestra. This is nearly the finest piano tone I have heard yet on any SACD, and really shows up some DSD recordings which feature metallic ringing overtones.

Performance is excellent, as well. Neither prissy nor overwrought, it seems to be exactly between classical and romantic in nature, which is historically appropriate. One can hear Mozart's influenece in the earlier concerto, yet hear Beethoven's powerful creativity emerging with full force in the later one.

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Review by ruxtonvet June 16, 2010 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I did not realize that I had a vinyl pressing of this disc with Stephen Bishop now Stephen Kovacevich on the SACD. Same guy! The vinyl set is on Phillips (6747 104 4LP) and includes all 5 concertos. The fifth is with the LSO, the first four with the BBC. The sound quality on the 5 vinyl records varies. All the concertos break up (tape saturation ?) on the loud passages. This continues on the SACD. This to me is not a minor complaint. One reason I buy SACDs is that their dynamic range and at times their bass response can be superior to vinyl. Not the case here. Phillips is not a good label if you are looking for hall ambience, so not much is lost due to tape aging on the SACD. Both the LP and the SACD give proper weight to the orchestra although this is clearly a multi-miked engineering job. Kovacevich and Davis with the BBC are excellent. I would agree with the above reviewers that this is one of the best performances of the second and forth to own. Again the sound is good until the loud passages when the distortion is very objectionable. If you come across the Phillips 4 LP set I would pick it up, but if you are looking for the SACD to correct the defects of the LP - it does not.

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Review by Luukas June 22, 2015 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I bought this disc because I had already this one: Beethoven: Piano Concertos 3 & 5 - Eschenbach, Ozawa, Henze.
This album is my first impression of Pentatone's RQR (Remastered Quadro Recording) Series, which contains Philips Classics old surround recordings. During the remastering process the engineering team used a DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology for the best possible clarity. The results are revelatory.
Stephen Kovacevich was one of the best Beethoven interpreters in his own time. He recorded the composer's all Piano Concertos for Philips in 1974. The analogue master tapes contained also an 4.0 surround sound and now - after 30 years - they have been successfully remastered in their original form.
The Second Concerto was quite heavy here. The orchestra's introduction was warm and sunny and Sir Colin Davis really knew the work. His old recordings didn't contained so much groaning than his later approaches with London Symphony Orchestra. By the way, the introduction was lovely performed. Piano's entry was a great experience for me: Kovacevich played it as Beethoven would be played it. He [Kovacevich] used strong accents. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was trustworthy accompanied.
The Fourth Concerto's beauty shines through from the performance. Listen the first movement's opening solo: how lovely it is! The dramatic second movement - the solo piano's and strings "discussions" - was simply impressive. And the dazzling finale was very funny.
Perhaps the Brent Town Hall wasn't the best venue for the surround sound. The word "surround" didn't reached its the best results here. But mostly the album was very good.
- Performance: 9 (Excellent)
- Recording: 10 (Outstanding)

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