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  Living Stereo
  Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Rubinstein/Reiner
  Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1

Arthur Rubinstein (piano)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 16 show all

Reviews: 5 show all

Review by Ivymike August 14, 2005 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Ten years ago I chanced across this recording in its original CD version. I picked it up mainly because it was an early stereo recording, engineered by Leslie Chase and recorded direct to two-track, 30 ips tape in April, 1954. The sound was big and initially impressive, but I found that my impressions changed, and not it good ways, with each new listening experince. The dynamics seemed somewhat restricted, as though Chase was riding gain. I also noticed that it evinced what I call the "giant piano" effect in which the image of the piano is spread all the way from far left to far right and out of proportion with the rest of the stereo image. I now know that this is an artifact of spaced-omni recording.

Now the SACD. The sound seems a bit livelier to me than it did on CD; perhaps some equalization was used on the original to reduce tape hiss. The soundstage is very wide and reverberant and is quite pleasing at first, but then that giant piano effect takes over and it just doesn't sound quite right...add to all of this what is probably the worst example of the hole-in-the-middle effect on any of the early RCA's and we've got an average recording that is pleasing to put on in the background but doesn't stand up as well when critical listening on a good system is in order. Tape noise is moderate; the same feeling of restricted dynamics is present and I'm sure this is inherent in the master tape. There's a pleasant warmth to the whole thing, particularly when it is played in the background.

I am not a fan of Brahms' music, but each time I hear this I grow more fond of it. I will not, therefore, stick my neck out and show the temerity to rate the performance since this is the only recording I've heard. Suffice it say that a non-Brahms guy finds it more and more interesting and that the melody in the first movement keeps coming up in my head.

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Review by ThreeBs December 7, 2005 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I first learned this concerto from the Serkin/Ormandy CBS record 40 years ago. It is one of the pieces closest to my heart. I remember hearing this Rubinstein record in the 60ís (I did not own it), and finding it too warm and even sloppy compared to Serkin. Now I find the SACD release to be a revelation. First, the sound is simply amazing for a nearly 50 year old recording. It puts to shame many contemporary piano concerto recordings. I still find the sound warm, but on the SACD it is also amazingly transparent. As for the performance, I enjoyed it immensely. Rubinstein had a special affinity for Brahms, and in this concerto he plays with both bravura and compassion. A wonderful recording in every way, and also a bargain. Highly recommended!

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Review by gonzostick August 21, 2009 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
DO NOT MISS THIS DISC! YES, It does have some sonic limitations, BUT this is the most phenomenal performance of the Brahms First Piano Concerto ever recorded. It would still be this good on monaural 78rpm discs!!! This session caught Rubinstein and Reiner in a disposition that enables them to take Brahms' anger, pain, and sadness and transmute it into something quite cosmic, energetic, and near-miraculous, embodying the younger Brahms' spiritual essence.

The recording is from the dawn of Living Stereo in 1954 and was never originally issued in Stereo until the late 1970's when the original stereo tapes were discovered, coming out as an Lp. I have bought every succeeding issue of this recording and this is the very best it has ever sounded. It does have some limitations, especially in the stereo image. What is referred to as "hole in the middle" imaging and a piano that is out of proportion to the rest of the orchestral sound is caused by something I discovered quite by accident, when playing one of the CD incarnations of this recording. I played the CD through my Dolby Surround Decoder in my theater system, only to find that the piano image tended to float towards the rear speakers, by triggering the phase-sensing logic circuits in the Dolby Surround decoder. That led me to think that the original master tape has some phase non-linearities or incongruities between the two stereo channels, and they stem from the image of the piano. It might be there was a microphone phase mismatch between those used at the session, or there were phasing anomalies between the channels in the magnetic tape recording heads on the original recorder. Also, the sound betrays the age of the Master, but the performance is worth every cent. There is a very slight level of distortion in tuttis, but not as much as is found in the Monteux Franck Symphony from Chicago on this same label.

So, while I agree Serkin with Ormandy or Szell are phenomenal in this music, Rubinstein and Reiner bring something I have yet to hear from any other performance of this work. There is a level of fire that even catches the Hungarian dance spirit in the last movement. Reiner starts the first movement off with an amazing level of energy and is matched by Rubinstein's passion and fire at every turn. In the contrasting lyrical subjects the music melts and breathes with great élan. The heartbreak and religious poise in the middle movement have rarely been realized so beautifully! Then, the last movement takes off like a dancing gunshot! I hear new things in this performance every time I hear it, and I NEVER tire of it.

This recording has been around for my complete lifetime, and my lifetime would be much the poorer without this treasurable recording. This is the best it will ever sound. GET THIS!!!

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Works: 1  

Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15