Reviews: Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, Franck: Symphonic Variations - Weissenberg, Karajan
|Site review by akiralx August 28, 2012
|A recording made in September 1972 which has never ranked very highly by admirers of either artist, but i found much to enjoy here. Karajan never seemed particularly engaged as an accompanist for pianists - the main prosecution witness could be his dire conducting for Christoph Eschenbach's DG recording of Beethoven's First Concerto, but he was a firm admirer of Weissenberg and their collaboration works pretty well.
The first movement of the Rachmaninov is imposing in Weissenberg's hands, and Karajan goes along with him, drawing very powerful playing from the BPO at the climax, with powerful timpani strokes adding to the excitement. The tempo of the Adagio sostenuto is dangerously slow but the simple dedication of the soloist and Karajan's attention to detail reaps dividends - he and Wislocki for Richter are two of the few conductors to draw out the flute chording at the movement's climax. Beautiful string playing without blandness throughout, while the wind section are admirable in the Finale's opening pages. Here Weissenberg's penchant for aggressive and rather literal playing slightly undermines the Slavonic melancholy.
Sonically this is enjoyable, with a wide soundstage and greater refinement than previous incarnations, though some hiss is still audible. The only small snag is the slightly close balance, most noticeable during the Finale. The recording sounds best during the quieter passages so again the first two movements of the Rachmaninov fare best - the closeness of the sound and slight hardness of the piano tone are more evident in the Finale.
The decent but unremarkable performance of the Franck Symphonic Variations doesn't have the individuality of the main work.