The pianist on this CD, Yulliana Avdeeva, is the winner of the Chopin piano competition in 2010. Checking the internet, you will find that the decision by the jury was controversial. Her playing was considered not to display the proper Chopin style, and too cool. I wasn't present at the competition, so I cannot write much about this. But having bought this CD, mainly because of use of old instruments, and the direction by the recently deceased icon of old music Frans Brüggen, I must say that I was totally blown away by the playing of Yulianna Avdeeva.
Janis backed by one of the greatest symphonies ever assembled (the 50's/60's Chicago Symphony under the baton of the micromanaging Fritz Reiner) put together in short a legendary and frenzied performance of the Rachmaninov Concerto No. 1. I wish I could stop there, but unfortunately this recording was coupled with a stale performance of the No. 3.
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either.
Deep in the heart of the Cold War, there was once a miracle in Moscow – Texas-based classical pianist Van Cliburn, of whom no one had heard, conquered at the First Tchaikovsky Competition, an event set aside to showcase Soviet talent. Cliburn was warned by his own government not to go, given the tense political relationship between the United States and Soviet Union at the time, and once he arrived he was greeted as a party crasher, subject to hostile stares and animosity of the kind he had never dreamed of back in Texas. And it was Cliburn, at the end, which brought down the house, and held the award. Back in America, he was greeted with a ticker tape parade and was the subject of a best-selling biography by Abram Chasins, The Van Cliburn Story, copies of which continue to clog the shelves of American thrift stores five decades hence. Ultimately, though, Cliburn's celebrity lost its luster. Nerves, ultra-picky perfectionism, and mishandling by management led to his early retirement from the concert scene; his greatest latter-day achievement being the force behind the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, America's most prestigious such event.
With this two-disc set of the piano quartets, Nicholas Angelich proves conclusively that he is the best Brahms pianist of his generation. His previous Brahms recordings – a 2005 disc of the violin sonatas with Renaud Capuçon, a 2006 solo collection featuring the Paganini Variations, a 2007 solo collection of the late piano works, and a 2008 disc of the First Piano Concerto with Paavo Järvi leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony – showed his skill in a variety of settings.