Menahem Pressler is a living legend of the piano. A founding member of the famed Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler's career was launched in 1946 when he won first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition. After a working as a soloist for a decade, he then became one of the world's most famous chamber musicians, playing with the Beaux Arts Trio for 53 years. This solo album celebrates Pressler's 90th birthday with a collection of music from the Viennese Classical tradition. It pairs Schubert's Piano Sonata No.18 with Beethoven's Bagatelles and a remarkably poignant A minor Rondo by Mozart. The music here encompasses the full range of emotions. Pressler has honed his sonority to the point where it resembles a vocal timbre. His sound is infinitely warm, pure and tender, like a fine vintage wine. This disc is a true event, giving listeners the sensation of being transported back to a lost era.
Beethoven's String Quartets are well known for their inventiveness. The mold of the string quartet form, established by Haydn, was shattered by Beethoven's profound expression and expansion of the "rules." Between 1999 and 2003, the renowned Pražák Quartet recorded all of the Beethoven string quartets, and this match of program and performers is one made in heaven.
A must-have for collectors of sublime historical recordings, this re-release of Fournier and Gulda's 1960 recording is equally appropriate for listeners seeking their first recording of Beethoven's works for cello and piano. Fournier's commitment to the exploration of the Beethoven sonatas and variations is clear; he made three complete recordings of the works over the course of his career – the first with Artur Schnabel in 1947, this one with Friedrich Gulda in 1960, and finally with pianist Wilhelm Kempff in 1965.
Veteran Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has turned in mid-career to live recordings, believing that the live situation makes possible a greater degree of spontaneity. In solo repertoire this has sometimes led him to follow his impulses into bold, unexpected interpretations. Here, in Beethoven's five piano concertos, there's less of an opportunity to color outside of the lines, even though Buchbinder serves as his own conductor (a tall order in Beethoven in itself). Yet his approach still works very well. He may deserve credit right off the bat for getting the sometimes recalcitrant Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to go along with what he's doing; the performances have a satisfying unity between soloist and orchestra.