Composer: Fryderyk Chopin
Performer: Emanuel Ax – piano
Orchestra: Philadelphia Orchestra
Conductor: Eugene Ormandy
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 5.0, 2.0
Label: BMG / Sonocord
Size: 3.98 GB
Emanuel Ax, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy
Chopin: Piano Concertos
Concerto No. 1, Op. 11:
01. Allegro Maestoso
02. Romanze: Larghetto
03. Rondo: Vivace
Concerto No. 2, Op. 21:
06. Allegro Vivace
Emanuel Ax plays the Chopin Piano Concerti, accompanied the Philadelphia Orchestra lead by Eugene Ormandy. This is part of a run of SACDs produced by BMG for distribution to club members in Germany, but never publicly sold. If you own any discs in this series, speak up!
Review of the RBCD Version from Amazon by Ronald Berkowitz
I am an unabashed fan of Chopin’s E minor concerto. I grew up with the recording by Czerny-Stefanska, incorrectly attributed to Dinu Lipatti. Her style and temperament sets the tone for my preferences.
Emanuel Ax’s recording has remained one of my favorites despite collecting many others. He communicates beautifully in this recording. There is a section toward the end of the first movement of the E minor that sounds to me as if the piano is pleading, or searching for sympathy and understanding. I often listen to that section to hear if the pianist can communicate that section well. Emanuel Ax touches me when he plays that section. He understands and conveys that message well. His second movement is lyrical and poignant and the last movement is played with seeming effortlessness, joy, playfulness and always with full attention to the singing quality of Chopin’s writing. The F minor concerto is also very well performed.
My only reservation about this disc, and the one reason that I continued to search for other recordings after owning this one, is that at times the woodwinds sound out of tune when playing along with the piano. This is especially noticeable in the last movement of the E minor.
I found the recording by Garrick Ohlsson on Arabesque label to be equally satisfying, but that recording is full-price. I prefer Ax’s recording to Zimerman’s most recent recording (also full-price). I also prefer Ax’s performance to Rubinstein’s recording with Skrowaczewski (E minor), Perahia/ Mehta (though I prefer Perahia/ Mehta for the F minor concerto), Kissin’s recording (although it is truly amazing given his tender age), Tirimo/ Glushcheko, Argerich/ Abbado, Argerich/ Dutoit, Simon/ Beissel (and I am a serious admirer of Abbey Simon’s playing) and Pires/ Krivine (though this also has some beautiful playing, marred only by the lack of momentum at times). I even prefer it to my old Czerny-Stefanska recording. Ax’s new recording with Mackerras cannot sustain my interest because I am disappointed by the sound of the period instrument. Otherwise his playing remains fine.
There are other well-known recordings that I do not own that deserve to be compared to Ax’s recording (Zimerman/ Guilini and the early Pollini recording come to mind). I have heard both of these and I believe they do not displace Ax in my list of recommendations. I also own a true recording of Lipatti, a highly individual recording by Samson Francois on EMI, and a recording by Rosina Lhevinne. These are each fine accounts that spark interest in part because of their historical value, but do not displace Ax’s performance.
Many of the recordings in my collection are full-priced. This bargain disc is a bargain in the best sense of the word — delivering a performance worth having, apart from its price, at a price that cannot be ignored.