Longtime fans of reclusive Romanian pianist Radu Lupu will no doubt already know his handful of recordings of Brahms' piano music made in the '70s and early '80s for Decca – his recklessly imperious F minor Sonata, romantically dramatic D minor Concerto, inwardly brooding D minor Variations, and richly autumnal late rhapsodies, ballades, and intermezzos. But fans of Brahms' piano music who don't already know Lupu's recordings will be overwhelmed by what they'd heretofore missed. Lupu's full, round tone, his effortless virtuosity, his poetic intensity, and his soulful expressivity combine in unified performances of consummate artistry.
Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia should have recorded all of Mozart's piano music for four hands, which includes several neglected masterpieces. This disc reflects their ideal partnership, two artists of great sensitivity collaborating in performances that feature constant interplay of parts, alertness to each other's work, and superb playing as individuals. The Concerto for Two Pianos ripples along without a care in the world, just as it should, and the English Chamber Orchestra doesn't seem to care that nobody is conducting it. The pieces without orchestra are a bit less significant (as is the Concerto for Three Pianos), but the playing is so beautiful you won't care.
Although these are unquestionably performances of impeccable musicality and taste, I found that Goldberg's tendency to underplay his part at times led to a little disappointment. In the A minor Sonatina of 1816, with its almost obsessional pathos, the two instrumentalists are models of classical purity, but the Pole is a bit static in the slow movement. Their hypersensitivity and immaculately polished use of tone are employed to keep the music within limited emotional confines. Goldberg's reticent way with the A major Sonata-Duo in particular makes the piece emerge as rather small-scale. The recorded balance between the two is relaxed and pleasing in these pieces.
This box set of all Mozart's mature Sonatas for piano and violin is astonishing. It reveals the deep pleasure of music making, the mutual respect between two outstanding musical personalities of different generations, and some of the greater insights into sublime music that have been set down. The balance and the joy are breath-taking, and from beginning to end, it's hard to imagine the works being played differently.
These two works form a perfect, contrasting pairing of the two most sublime piano compositions for four hands in existence: the Mozart ineffably sunny yet majestic, in a brilliant D major, the Schubert Fantasia achingly melancholy and beautiful, played by two musicians who are characterised by expressive understatement. In my experience, Lupu has since, in later years, become inclined to give detached, almost indifferent performances which verge on the remote, whereas here he and Perahia play with both strength and delicacy without ever giving in to excessive rubato or cheap, overt emotionalism.
A lyricist in a thousand', Lupu has, naturally, placed Schubert at the centre of his repertoire and conjured from a seemingly recalcitrant black-and-white instrument a range of vocal colours and nuances that even a Souzay or Fischer-Dieskau might envy. Heard at his greatest in the sombre A minor Sonata, D845, he recreates a place where even the most outwardly genial phrase is troubled and despairing. Then turn to the A major Sonata's finale (D664) and you hear a pianist who can change from blazing defiance to a delectable lightness and vivacity.
Sony Classical ORIGINALS offer listeners outstanding enjoyment, authentically recapturing the fascination of legendary recordings from the age of long-playing records and preserving worthwhile releases from two labels with particularly long and distinguished traditions: RCA Red Seal and Columbia Masterworks. These superb recordings by great artists have enjoyed international acclaim ever since they were first released. Showered with critical plaudits, they are part of the 20th century’s cultural legacy.
Ms Hendricks has allied herself with one of the truly great pianists of the last thirty years, and a masterly Schubertian at that: Radu Lupu. His Schubert impromptus on Decca are to my mind only challenged by Brendel. I can’t remember hearing him as accompanist anywhere else, which makes his partnership with Barbara Hendricks special indeed. He doesn’t dominate the proceedings as some other soloists have tended to do but neither is he too reticent. It seems that they have found a good balance. Once or twice I reacted to his approach. Der Wanderer an den Mond seems too jolting but otherwise there are no eccentricities.
This lavish box set contains a whopping 68 discs, a hardcover book, and five DVDs; in short, it's Murray Perahia's entire recorded career through 2010. Although the title says "The First 40 Years," the final disc in the set is a Vox Turnabout disc of Mozart chamber music that Perahia recorded with Boris Kroyt and Harold Wright in 1967, but not released until 1976. Chamber music is not something Perahia is usually known for, nor is vocal music.